Yesterday was Mega Monday, the biggest day of the year for British internet shoppers who were expected to spend £320,000 per minute, 20 per cent more than last year. Julie Hayes, business editor, meets some of York’s high street retailers to see how they’re continuing to attract shoppers into their businesses
A York experience Sophie Jewett aligned herself with York’s chocolate heritage to spur her business’s growth when she launched York Cocoa House.
She had always told the city’s story at her chocolate-making workshops and in the past year she has become an important part of the story herself, a key part of setting up York’s first chocolate festival, regularly speaking at events and handing out lots of chocolate.
Her thirst for knowledge has driven her to seek out old books on the founding fathers of the city’s chocolate industry, enabling her to recreate old recipes and processes which mean York residents feel part of the story and visitors, too, get an experience of the city’s heritage with their afternoon tea.
“Customers come in every day and share their knowledge and wanting to preserve it for York.
“And people want to know about the history of York and its reputation.
‘‘What I was able to do with York is unique in terms of what other chocolatiers were doing in other parts of the country. Having this additional wonderful element of the heritage enabled me to have a niche.”
Now Sophie is taking her customers further on her artisanal journey as she sources cocoa beans to make her own York chocolate and rears Henry the cocoa plant, named after the oft-overlooked Henry Rowntree, in her shop.
She said: “It’s much more about how we can involve people in the story. I can give people an experience and they will remember that.”
Telling stories Liz Moyles is new to retail. She has a passion for fashion, a background in biochemistry and a new boutique on Goodramgate.
A serious shopper herself and having researched the best boutiques in the UK, she had a very clear vision for how her new shop, Kenzi UK, would look.
Her first idea was to offer something different. Designer clothes, but not yet well-known in the UK.
She said: “In a few years, when these designers become more established in the UK, the prices will rocket. But we know that York’s stylish women will jump at the chance to get in on the ground floor.”
Next to each designer’s collection, is a brief explanation of where they have come from, their background and history, so customers can discover which designer’s jewellery Rhianna wears, who used to work for Vivienne Westwood and who makes the shirts worn by Princess Laetitia of Spain when she’s running around with the kids.
The changing rooms, with a cluster of mirrors outside the cubicles, encourage customers to come out into a more sociable environment, get some advice and have a glass of champagne, with a sofa and beer for husbands.
Attention to detail is paramount, from brilliant lighting and providing tissues and scarves in the changing rooms to having staff members of different ages and sizes to make all customers feel welcome.
A piece of the magic In November last year, York’s Disney Store was one of about ten in the UK to become a “concept store”, with sparkly floor and “tree-lined path” leading to a Disney Theatre with a big screen and a fairy castle with mirrors in for children to try on costumes.
Accompanying the physical changes in the store are events, including the grand unlocking of the store every day with a large key, appearances by Tinkerbell or Buzz Lightyear and activities such as story-telling and writing letters to Father Christmas.
Amy Pearson, marketing director of Disney Store, said: “Guests are spending longer in stores than they were previously and they are visiting more often because of the experience.
‘‘We are almost seeing it as an extension of the experience of going to one of the theme parks.”
Rather than to compete with e-commerce, he said the experience needed to be reflected on its website, where children can also write letters to Santa online and see Mickey Mouse writing their names on the “nice” list after their letters have been submitted.