Going from ‘clicks to bricks’ has proved a sound business move for sisters Sabina and Hanifa Dungarwalla.
The young women, joint partners in www.GiftsOnline4U.com, have made the unusual move of going from a web-only business to taking up the traditional retail model – in other words, opening a shop.
The two are run alongside each other, but Hanifa (24) says the shop – at 15 Broad Street in Spalding – has thrown up some surprising advantages.
Apart from the fact that it allows shoppers to actually get up close to the labelled wine bottles, personalised chocolates and engraved gifts, interaction with customers allows Hanifa and Sabina (26) to encourage them to think about using social media – a form of marketing. For instance asking customers to follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/giftsonline4u) or Twitter (@giftsonline4u) so that they can be kept informed about new products. That has worked, and they have seen an increase in local followers.
However, having the shop has also allowed the businesswomen to build relationships with other local companies, and that means they can offer customers a complete package. For instance, if someone wants a birthday gift and flowers, Sabina and Hanifa can oblige because they have built a relationship with the owners of the flower shop round the corner in Herring Lane, Kymberly Sarah Floral Design.
They are also in discussions about joint promotions with other local companies.
Hanifa believes it is this mixing of traditional and new methods of working that earned them one of the top spots in the Spalding Guardian’s Local Business Accelerators awards.
She says: “The majority of businesses go from bricks and mortar to going online. It’s very unusual to find businesses going back to traditional methods of selling. That’s one of the reasons we won, but also our product range is quite unusual. We have tried to be unusual and develop products customers can’t find elsewhere and that’s our unique selling point.”
The award winners each receives mentoring from local business, legal and finance experts, as well as an advertising package worth hundreds of pounds.
Hanifa and Sabina have both studied on business courses but Hanifa says one of the reasons they entered was because they feel they can benefit from mentoring.
The women initially started working for their father, Asgar, in developing his e-commerce platforms, but he has now taken a back seat and allowed the sisters to develop the business.
Reassuringly, Hanifa can also see the benefit of local advertising and publicity as experience has shown that it often results in new customers coming to the shop.