The End Of An Era

The End of An Era

So.....after an awful lot of deliberation, I have decided to close down my online shop.  This has not been an easy decision whatsoever but I feel it is the right one.
The original Hilary & Flo
Hilary and Flo started in 2015 as an independent physical shop.  At the time, I owned a pottery craft cafe and the shop next door became available to rent.  I had always been into interiors and had wanted to open a shop selling eclectic interiors as there was nothing similar in Sheffield.
I spent ages sourcing products and designed and created and designed  the shop from scratch.  The reception I received was amazing and I soon attracted both regular and new customers.  
It was also about this time that I started an Instagram account and began to post daily featuring different items from the shop and did regular 'shop tours'.  We were also extending our house  and so started to document this on Instagram too.
My Instagram account grew overnight and with it the demand for shipping my items to followers both Uk and overseas.  I set up a website without any prior knowledge and soon began selling online - an awful lot of mistakes were made in the first year!
By 2018, my online sales were outdoing my physical sales and my lease on the property was up for renewal.  I had already sold my pottery business and so just had Hilary and Flo.
The landlord and agents who managed both properties were absolutely awful to deal with, the footfall in the area had dropped dramatically and so I took the decision to close the shop and concentrate on online sales.
This proved to be the correct decision and the online shop grew from strength to strength.
So, what has changed 4 years later and why have I decided to close the online shop?
Here are a few of the reasons...

These Last 2 Years Have Been TOUGH!

At the start of lockdown in 2020, I panicked!  I, wrongly, presumed that people would not be buying because they were very uncertain times and people wouldn't have the money to spend.
Quite the opposite happened.
After a little lull at the beginning, sales came flooding in.  The following year was the busiest year of my trading as people weren't spending money on holidays, going out, socialising etc and were spending money on doing up their houses and gardens.
With the sales came stress.  I am a bit of born worrier, a total perfectionist and I work entirely on my own running the business. We were also renovating a house at the time so things were pretty full on.  By April 2021, I was rather burnt out and I took the decision to close the shop for a couple of weeks so that I could catch up with orders.
I wasn't enjoying it anymore.
When places started to open up again, sales went down.  People were now wanting to spend their money on things that they hadn't been doing for the last year and wanted to get out of the house.
The last 6 months have been the worst time for sales since I opened the shop.  It has effected me mentally and I have withdrawn from posting on Instagram for the business as, if I'm honest(and I always am) I have felt a bit of a failure.  For the past couple of months, I have been living on savings.  This is not sustainable and something needs to give.

Brexit

Not going to dwell on this too much apart to say that it has been a killer for business.  I have always imported and exported since going online and this has been detrimental as prices have become too high.
It has also meant that wholesale prices have increased a lot for items which we then have to pass onto customers.
I have had to stop buying from certain wholesalers as I just can't afford the shipping fees.  It has also put off certain customers from purchasing due to import taxes.

Competition

When I first started Hilary and Flo, there were very few similar online/physical shops.  This changed after few years and particularly in lockdown where lots of people decided to start selling interiors online.
This was not helped by the fact that some wholesalers will sell to almost anyone so a lot of people were selling the same things and it has been very hard to compete or find unique products.
High Street Stores
It is soooooo hard to compete with the High Street.  They can produce similar items at a fraction of the cost.  This is not helped by the fact that they also have a huge marketing budget and so are always shared by large accounts on Instagram.
I have lost count of the number of times I have seen accounts share reels of what they have found this week in a High Street store.  Absolutely nothing wrong with it and I do buy from the High Street myself, but it really doesn't help independents.
On the flip side, there are lots of accounts that do help promote small businesses and I have gotten a lot of sales through them over the years and I am truly grateful for their support.

Covid

These last 2 years have made a big impact on my life.  I am very very lucky that Covid hasn't affected me or my family in the way that it has affected thousands of others. However, it has really made me have a big rethink about things as I'm sure it has lots of others.
During lockdown, I found myself following more and more travel accounts and people who were living with less but experiencing life more.
My ultimate goal is to travel and we will hopefully start putting things into place to make this happen in the next couple of years.
The ultimate dream - Monument Valley in a Skoolie!
I have started wanting less material things and started spending money on experiences and holidays.  This has meant that I have lost a lot of motivation to sell to others and feel this is the right time to start afresh and try to 'live my best life'.

Other Interests

During lockdown, we renovated a house and I absolutely loved the process.  There is nothing I enjoy more than making an unloved space look beautiful again.
I love interiors but I love the process of renovating, designing and styling much more than selling online.  I have been wanting to pursue my passion for a number of years and I have completed a few design projects for clients.  This is what I would love to do more of and I need to dedicate myself 100% to it instead of having other distractions.
A recent nursery project
If I don't make the leap now, I never will!

Future Plans

This decision is extremely scary and not one I have taken lightly but I always believe in trusting your gut feeling.  
I hope to develop my career in interior design and push myself out of my comfort zone.
Helping other independents is also something else I really want to do.  I feel I have gained a heap of knowledge over the last 14 years of being self employed and want to use this to advise others.  Social Media has helped my business immensely and I believe that a lot of independents are not seeing its potential and this is an area I can assist with.
The plan is to use my social media to help promote other independents and use it as a platform to support. 

Closing Down Sale

There will be 30% off most items until the end of June 2022(excludes pre order and Independents). Please support me in anyway you can to help me move on to the next chapter of my life. The discount code is HILARY30
Thank you so much for reading and thank you so much for your support.
Shelley x