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Opening a Shop: Week 1

At the end of April, local florist Gardenia of London will open its fourth branch on Teddington High Street.

In a series of weekly posts, I will take you through the nuts and bolts of opening a new shop - from the initial concept right through to launch. This week, I explain why Teddington has been top of my wish list for years.

Week 1: 24 days until doors open

When I sat down with my management team to plan for 2015, I had itchy feet. It’s been almost five years since we opened our third branch in Wandsworth Common; the UK economy seems to  the on the mend… I was ready to step things up a gear.

Why Teddington?

With perfect timing, premises became available in a location that I have had my eye on for a decade. Like Wimbledon Village, Teddington has a proper high street with a population that is passionate about shopping locally. There’s some good, healthy competition to keep us on our toes and plenty of neighbours who seem to share our independent, family-run business ethos. What’s more, the unit itself has a gorgeous, ornate Victorian façade that will make the perfect backdrop for our trademark pavement display. It was an opportunity too good to miss.

The paperwork

The agent explained that the landlord took a very fair, reasonable and responsible approach to choosing retailers to occupy his properties, not permitting more than one of the same offering on his parade. They requested the usual details from us – financial information, trading history and references – along with a ‘pitch’ document that outlined our plans for the shop. We put some time and effort into explaining our business and its history, as well as the reasons why we believed Gardenia was a good fit for the area, and it paid off: the agent gave us the go ahead and the lease process was refreshingly simple from there.

New shop, new manager

Once the premises were secured, the next hurdle was to find the right manager. Gardenia prides itself on its friendly customer service: in a new, high profile shop I needed someone I could trust to deliver that experience to a new audience. On the off chance, I got in touch with someone who worked for me several years ago. Natalie is young, enthusiastic and has the experience to take on the challenge of opening a new shop. Her father-in-law lives in Teddington so she knows the area well; and she was managing the floristry concession in Harrods, so I knew her customer service skills were top notch. It’s not an approach I have used before – she wasn’t looking to move and I hadn’t advertised the position – but she was excited about our plans and agreed to come on board.

Banishing the ‘what ifs?’

We’ve been lucky that these practical considerations have all been sorted out smoothly. The hardest part for me was making that decision to take a leap forward: it was daunting, scary and fraught with ‘what ifs?’, but I trusted my gut instinct and got on with it. My advice to someone who is considering expansion would be to have confidence in your own abilities and experience. Just do it. Make that decision; the rest will fall into place.  

What happens next?

On Wednesday I will pick up the keys to our new premises and the physical hard graft will begin. We’ve got a shop to fit out, a local marketing campaign to deliver and a launch party to plan. Oh, and three other shops to run at the same time.

Check back next week for a progress update and more on the inspiration behind our new interior design.

Jamie Grant is the owner and creative director of Gardenia of London