Name: Chelsea McIntosh Role: Managing Director
Name: Chelsea McIntosh Role: Managing Director
Tell us a little about how you began your business?
I started Spoilt in 2005. I had been working in an office tower in Melbourne and realised there was a huge opportunity in the CBD with so many people in each office tower and very limited retail near their workplace.
I have always loved retail and had a passion for customer service, so when I saw an opportunity to open my own store, offering a solution to the busy Melbourne office workers I could not resist. 15 years later, I still love retail, but my true passion is buying the products for the stores. I love visiting Reed Gift Fairs, looking at local and international trends and curating the new season ranges.
Describe what 2020 was like for you:
Unpredictable – we have always been able to forecast the growth, staffing and our buying needs for our stores but during the last 12 months things have really been crazy and impossible to confidently forward plan. Our stores are mainly based in Melbourne CBD and in and around office towers. Because of COVID we have spent a lot of this year closed or with hardly any customers in the shops. It has been a really tough year! However, we have been determined to focus on what we can control and adapt our business to the changing environment. It has allowed us to focus on growing our online business and we re-located two of our underperforming stores out of the CBD to nearby suburbs.
My goal has been to try and stay positive, keep my staff working and really focus on what changes our businesses needs to make to survive.
When Victoria could finally begin to re-open after 2/3 year in lockdown – what did this look like for your store?
Operating a business that one of its main strengths was the location of the stores being in a bustling city - to re-opening in a near empty city, with limited office workers and near to no tourists, was terrifying to say the least.
We re-located two of our CBD stores to just outside the CBD. We were unsure how this would go but we do believe the CBD will still be closed for some time with a lot of office workers not returning to their offices until Feb/March so we wanted to make sure we were being smart and not only being focused in the CBD like we had before.
It’s been very unpredictable for the business and the staff. We are lucky to have a great team that has been with the business for a long time, so everyone has been really supportive. COVID has really made us think about our business structure and adapt with the changes. This time of the year is usually very, very busy for us but at the moment we can only take things a day or a week at a time.
How has COVID-19 and the impact it tore throughout the retail industry, changed the way you think about your business/customer?
I think there is a very strong loyalty behind local businesses. We have always been quite adaptive and work hard to analyse what is happening in the retail landscape not only in Australia but to also follow trends overseas to make sure we are adapting and staying up to date. I think for us a strong focus will be on embracing change and not being afraid to try something new. We’ve hit many hurdles this year with trying to adapt but we have persevered and although it is definitely scary and daunting it is also exciting to make changes and see things work!
We’ll definitely have a strong focus on looking at new products to stock and finding those things that people have to have! We always like to put our customers first and I think we have to embrace online and try and create that same in store experience in a digital landscape!
How did you innovate your business during 2020?
We really took the time to build our online presence and have our online store operating. We completely changed the POS we had been using for 15 years to a new system and moved our website to a new platform as well. We had always planned to do this, this year but COVID really made us put a lot more time and energy into that side of the business. Spoilt has always been a predominantly brick-and-mortar business and we hope to see more activity in our stores as things go towards a COVID normal but we are glad that we have been able to put resources into online especially during lock down.
We have developed our website a lot and put procedures in place to help things move smoothly. We added a chat function to the website as well as implementing both click and collect; and call and collect. Although we are glad to be able to have an online store, it does make it quite hard with having 8 other physical locations and having all stock quantities visible and everything running smoothly.
We’ve also put other procedures in place to really help us streamline our communication with online so that all customer communication runs through the one system, making it easier for the staff to keep track of enquiries.
We’ve really taken the business from being heavily brick-and-mortar to functioning more in a digital landscape as well.
Why do people return to your store?
We have always had a strong focus on customer service and value for money. Many of our staff have worked at Spoilt for 6 to 12 years, so our customers see a familiar and friendly face when they come to Spoilt.
We have had many of our regular customers support us during this time by shopping online and when they can, they have even come in to support us financially but also just to see that we are ok.
What new features, trends or products do you look for at Reed Gift Fairs?
We want to discover products that really wow us – things that are a bit different and unique. There is definitely a strong trend to support local businesses and eco-friendly products!
With so many people working from home the past year, we have seen a strong push towards home decor and practical items for the home office.
Spoilt has always had a strong emphasis on new and exciting product but they must offer value for money.
Why do you visit Reed Gift Fairs?
I’m a very visual person and I like to look at the new products in person. It’s much easier to do it over a number of days where your sole focus is on buying! My inbox also gets inundated with emails all year round and I find it much easier to go and look and discover new brands and products in person than seeing an email land in my inbox amongst all the other emails.
What makes you optimistic about the future of retail?
It’s hard to stay 100% optimistic but people are always going to buy things, that won’t change! The way they do it may, but they will still spend. We just really need to understand consumer behaviour and adapt to ensure we provide our customers with the solutions they are after.
If you could go back in time, what are some of the biggest lessons in retail you'd tell your younger self?
Always analyse your data! It really helps us to make buying decisions and make changes to our business financially.
Retail is not what it was 10 years ago, we must move with the time adapt to our customer’s needs, whether it is changing our products ranges or our how we run our business.
Although Spoilt always had an online presence, it was never our focus until 2020. I saw it more as a marketing tool for our brick and mortar stores and really should have been more proactive sooner.
Why do you love what you do?
I’ve always been a really driven person and a bit of a workaholic. That’s probably one reason but also – we have really created a community here at Spoilt with our staff, customers and even through the trade fairs. While this year has been extremely tough, we do want to come out of this and continue to keep going for many more years!
I still get such a buzz when I see someone walking down the street with a “Spoilt” shopping bag or customer telling us how much they love our stores.
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