How to stay on top of the technology game

Windows-XP-LogoAfter the reports that Microsoft has stopped support for Windows XP it has left many small business owners with questions on how to make sure they stay up to date with technology. Around a third of computers use Windows XP worldwide, including the government who spent £5 million in extending the deadline so that they could get support in moving from XP to a new system.

 

Released 13 years ago, there has since been three newer iterations of Windows, yet for many businesses XP was and still is a reliable piece of software.

 

However, without Microsoft’s continued support, machines that use Windows XP are more vulnerable to attacks from hackers, and will be less stable. So how can you ensure that you keep up to date with technology without it being complicated, costly and confusing?

 

Move to the cloud

Using cloud computing is a great way to ensure that all of your data is in a place which is secure and easily accessible no matter where you are and what computer or device you’re using to access it.

 

You can move your accounts to software like FreeAgent or Xero, and use programmes like Google Drive to create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations. If used in conjunction with your own back up procedures, cloud storage is the ideal way for you to keep important files as it means that you rarely have to upgrade anything and you don’t have to fork out for costly software changes.

 

Consider alternative computers

Computers like Google’s Chromebook aren’t reliant on operating systems and instead use internet browsers to power the machine. It’s an easier computer to handle for those who aren’t up to date with technology as the computer will update automatically whenever it’s connected to the internet.

 

Using alternative till systems is also something you can consider. Instead of using old-fashioned clunky machines, using a tablet-based system can be ideal, especially if you’re working from a pop up shop. Tillify is just one example of this sort of application in action.

 

Keep everything updated

As with all software and computers, it will eventually become outdated. Make upgrading your software part of your business plan and be prepared to renew your computers and software every few years. Also remember to include updating your website in your budget – there’s nothing worse than seeing an outdated website which looks like it was designed in 1995!

To bag or not to bag? Should you provide carrier bags for customers?

canvas-bagsIf you’re opening your own shop then the question of whether you should provide your customers with shopping bags for their purchases can be a tricky one to get right.

 

Some places will require you to charge for the use of bags, and as a company you  may not want to promote the use of wasteful plastic bags. However, a bag can be an ideal way to get word out about your shop through its mini billboard effect.

 

Come up with an engaging design

If you’re running a pop up shop, a brightly coloured, engaging bag can really attract customers to your store, simply through seeing others with the bags on the streets.

 

In addition to this, if you create a really attractive design, your customers won’t mind investing in buying a more permanent canvas version of your bag, or even paying a small surcharge for a more disposable kind.

 

Ditch the plastic

No one likes those flimsy plastic bags and as they are usually only used once, they create a lot of wastage. Offer customers paper bags for small, lighter purchases and reusable sturdy canvas bags for heavier or larger purchases.

 

Even though it is a little more expensive, you can get around this by charing your customers a small fee for your lovely bags!

Not only will you be sending out a good message to your customers, you’ll be playing your part in keeping your business eco-friendly.

 

Incentivise your bags

If you’ve come up with a really pretty design for your bags and stockpiled them, you don’t want to end up with loads of surplus bags left over once your pop up shop ends. Give your more expensive bags away with larger purchases over a certain amount, or give the bags away for free to repeat customers.

 

Not only does this help get your bags out into the wide world, it also helps drum up a bit of extra business.

Mother’s Day Pop Up Shops

Mother's DayWith Mother’s Day looming, what better way to treat your mum than with the unique offerings and experiences of a pop up shop? From one of a kind gifts to tea for two, there’s a whole host of Mother’s Day themed pop ups waiting for you to explore. Here are just a small selection of them!

 

Karen Morrison Jewellery, London http://www.karenmorrisonjewellery.co.uk/

 

Based in The Corner Shop in Clerkenwell Green, Karen Morrison Jewellery will be around until 30 March 2014 – great for those last minute purchases. All of the jewellery is handmade by Karen in her studio in Brixton and features unisex jewellery as well as pretty pieces for Mum.

 

Smashing Glass, Ealing http://www.smashingglass.org.uk/ 

 

This unique project is based in the council’s pop up shop on Uxbridge Road and has a variety of home wear and jewellery created by young students out of broken pieces of glass. This is the final pop up shop that will take place in the Uxbridge Road venue.

 

Mother’s Day, Selfridges http://style.selfridges.com/whats-on/mother%E2%80%99s-day-activity-selfridges-london

 

In stores across the country Selfridges will be offering a number of fun pop up activities and offers including personalised cakes, chocolates and cards, perfume engraving and crystallised bottles of champagne. In addition to this the restaurants at Selfridges will have special Mother’s Day menus every day until Sunday.

 

Inder’s Kitchen, Cambridge https://www.inderskitchen.com/pop-up-restaurants

 

This Sunday Inder’s Kitchen will be at the Alexandra Arms in Cambridge offering up a scrumptious Indian menu. For a last minute dinner treat, this pop up restaurant is great as an alternative to Sunday roast!

The benefits of a pop up shop

Pop-Up-Shop3Going pop up may be the solution that your business needs, as investing in a temporary space can expose your business to a new market, create buzz and expand your venture even further.

 

Whether you set up a shop on a high street, or promote yourself in a shopping centre, you may find that a pop up shop is an affordable way to really connect with your customers.

 

It’s cheaper

As pop up shops are temporary, you don’t usually have to fork out for expensive long-term leases. When you’re starting out in the world of business it can be an ideal solution if you don’t have the funds to invest in a permanent space.

 

Less commitment

A pop up space is ideal if you have a seasonal brand. The temporary nature of a pop up means that you only have to invest in a retail space during the seasons that your business is active and relevant.

 

Creates a buzz

Perhaps the most attractive part of opening a pop up is that it creates a lot of buzz as you’ll be the newest shop on the block. Not only this, it instills a sense of urgency in customers as you’ll only be around for a few weeks or months, and encourages them to make spontaneous purchases.

 

In addition to this, it can really help launch an online venture as customers will get to meet you face to face instead of putting their trust in a website.

 

An extension of your brand

As a pop up shop is only temporary you can tap into a market you may not have ever visited before. You can test a new location or even trial out a new product to see whether it would make sense for you to commit to doing it long term.

 

The only downside of starting a pop up is that you don’t get to keep the space forever, which can be disheartening if you fall in love with your pop up!

 

If you’re thinking of starting a new venture, get in touch with us and let us source a pop up shop for you. We have access to properties all over the UK and can work with you to find your perfect space.

How pop ups and mobile technology are changing the face of retail

ibeaconTo make it in the world of retail, it’s not simply a case of opening up shop, stocking your shelves with wonderful items and waiting for the customers to flow through the doors. Nowadays, you have to appeal to customers in a more immersive way to fend of the competition and actually be successful.

 

It’s a vital necessity that you must have a website that runs alongside a physical store, with many opting to not have the latter at all, or choosing temporary pop up shops to create some buzz about their brand.

 

Customers are less likely to give your store a chance too. What with a connection to the internet always available, many consumers are more likely to read reviews or search for the lowest price point via their mobile devices. They’re also more likely to tell you what they think too, with the shadow of social media often an outlet for complaints and compliments.

 

The challenge for you as a business is how to retain consistency in a world where consumers will visit you via your website, physical premises, social media accounts and other online presences.

 

In a recent Guardian round table, they noted that the pop up shop will be at the heart of retail in the future. A notable example of companies making use of the pop up and mobile shopping world is Sneakerboy in Australia, which allows customers to try on trainers at their physical store, and then order shoes via their app which are then delivered to the customer’s front door.

 

Another idea which may take some time to catch on is iBeacon, a near field communication system of messaging which alerts you when you are in or near a store that has a special promotion or discount. It may be an intrusive prospect for some, but many consumers may feel that this adds to the wider experience of always looking for a bargain or the cheapest prices available.

 

However you look at it, mobile technology and pop up shops are here to stay, and it certainly looks like they are already moulding how we shop.

Tips on finding the perfect business partner

billandsteveIf you’ve got an amazing business idea but need a little help setting up, then partnering with someone who has some more experience or just some great ideas can be the best way to give you the head start you need. 

 

Before you start searching for the perfect partner, you should think about what you’re going to bring to the relationship.

 

Do you have the ideas? Or will you bring a full contact book to the table? Or maybe you want to be the sales person, the face of the company and need someone to help you with the technical aspects of running a company. Whatever you’re good at, make sure you clearly outline the areas that you need filling in so you can easily find the right partner for you.

 

Networking

One of the best ways to find a business partner is by networking. Attending local business groups, or asking for introductions to potential business partners from your contacts is one of the best ways to get your name out there.

 

Your local Chamber of Commerce may also be able to help: they will have members who are experienced in running businesses, and often arrange events which you can attend and put the word out there about your business.

 

It’s also important at this stage to get some references from people you’ve worked with in the past, or those who can vouch for your business sense. That way, your potential partner won’t feel so wary about starting up business with you. Similarly, you should also check out their references.

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How to set up (pop up) shop

pop upStarting a business can be expensive, and a pop up shop is no exception. However, the beauty of a pop up shop is that because you’re only going to be around for a short while you can invest in fixtures and fittings that can be reused again elsewhere and also cut some corners where permanent shops may not be able to. 

 

Before you make any big sweeping plans, consider the space that you’ve agreed to rent. Is it big enough for all your ambitions? If not, you may have to scale things down, and of course it’s vital that you have all the correct measurements when buying equipment for your store.

 

Get storage that’s easy to move

It’s important to have equipment that’s easy to put up and pack away – by yourself if necessary. You should also invest in something that’s adaptable and sturdy, after all you might be using this equipment in another space on a larger or smaller scale, miles away, so you don’t want anything that’s likely to break in transit.

 

Upcycle fixtures

Consider using websites like Gumtree or Freecycle to find unique display units for your space, or visit charity shops to find cheap furniture that’s unique. It will give your space the edge over that Ikea flat pack shelving everyone else has.

 

Use the walls

Walls are often forgotten, and can be the perfect space to showcase your items or display some advertising. Project some images on the wall, hang your clothes up on there, or paint a bold design on them. Whatever you do, don’t forget about them – bare walls really add to that “just moved in” feel.

 

If you’re thinking of setting up a pop up space, then get in touch with us. We can help you find the perfect space no matter where you’re based.

Bitcoins explained: how they can work for your business

bitcoinThe talk about Bitcoin seems never ending, and it looks like it’s a topic that’s not going away any time soon. But what is Bitcoin and how can it benefit your business if at all?

What are Bitcoins?

Bitcoin is a crypto-currency which essentially means it’s a virtual currency. It does not exist in any physical format and its created by a computer algorithm which assigns each Bitcoin with a unique ID which is then used to track every purchase made using the currency.

 

Instead of having to go through a middleman or a bank, each transaction happens person to person too, giving a better sense of security to exchanging money. It gained popularity in 2009 after the crash in Cyprus and people were looking for a safer way to store their money.

 

A single Bitcoin is currently worth around £350 (21st Feb 2014) but the value fluctuates frequently just like any other currency. Small parts of a Bitcoin are called satoshis which divides the coin by 8 decimals, meaning you can easily pay for small items with parts of a Bitcoin.

 

What’s the benefits?

Only 21 million Bitcoins will ever be released, meaning that it has a low inflation risk, plus as a virtual currency it’s not regulated by any government, meaning that the risk of the currency collapsing is low too. Some customers may also appreciate being offered an alternative form of currency.

 

Any downfalls?

At the moment the fluctuating price of Bitcoins is the biggest downer, meaning it’s not very convenient if you’re running a business. As it’s a new currency, not many people are using it and even less are using it offline. While some mainstream merchandisers are accepting it as a form of currency, it’s still not mainstream.

 

How does it affect pop ups and retail stores?

There’s lots of pop up shops that are using Bitcoins as an alternative form of currency, and what better way to test the water than with a temporary shop? A pub in London has recently offered Bitcoin as a form of payment as well as Paypal, letting customers who use this method to have a discount on their purchases.

 

A pop up shop in London has also recently opened which sells Bitcoins, the first of its kind in Europe. Azteco speeds up the wait time for Bitcoins by letting you purchase them over the counter, providing you with an instant code which you can then transfer into your virtual wallet. This kind of pop up store may be the solution to a lack of accessibility or knowledge about the crypto currency.

 

It’s an interesting alternative that could easily work, but four years on as the currency enters the popular sphere, only time will tell if we’ll be buying all our pints in the pub with virtual currency.

The Best Valentine’s Day Pop Up Restaurants

IMG_3586enbAValentine’s Day is nearly upon us, and it’s the time of the year when pop ups get more creative and offer some unique romantic settings to cozy up next to your partner.

 

Here are a selection of some of the best pop ups that are happening this Valentine’s Day.

 

Madame Tussauds, London

This “loved up” event costs a whopping £69 per head but you’ll be surrounded by you favourite celeb doppelgängers, receive a rose petal Martini on arrival and have a fine three course meal under the venue’s ornate chandeliers.

 

With a choice of dishes like lobster cream soup, Salt Marsh lamb, and a raspberry mousse chocolate heart, you won’t regret the hefty price tag.

 

Valentines For Everyone, Bermondsey, London

An interesting concept, chef Tom Hunt has teamed up with FareShare to create a Valentine’s meal out of food that would have otherwise been thrown into a landfill because too much was ordered, or its in the wrong packaging.

 

It costs £40 but don’t expect an intimate dinner for 2 – everyone will be seated in a banquet manner so you’ll get to know who you’re sitting next to.

 

Tobacco Factory, Bristol

This iconic venue will be given a makeover for the night and you’ll be seated in the Green Room where you’ll dine on a choice of lentil tagine, salmon, or guinea fowl. What’s more, it only costs £16.50 per person!

 

The Candlelight Club, London

Hidden away in a secret London venue, this jazz club, 1930s-style establishment is reminiscent of the speakeasies of the USA. They’ll be celebrating the St Valentine’s Day Massacre where a 1920s swing band will be playing and cocktails will be flowing.

 

An a la carte menu will also be served. Fancy dress is optional, but you may look out of place if you don’t!

How to give your business a PR boost

PRHaving a well-thought out PR plan can do wonders for your business and often means that you get a boost to your visibility without spending too much money.

It’s a great way to get a base of potential customers that you can further market to. The following ideas are the basics and trying out one or all of these ideas is enough to give your business a boost.

Online presence 

Most businesses will have a website, but if you don’t then this is one of the first things that you’ll need to set up.

Nowadays most people will consult the internet before considering any other option of trying to contact you, so ensuring you have a website set up will mean that you won’t lose potential customers.

The best way to set up a website is to hire a professional, but if you want something quick and easy try free software such as WordPress or Tumblr to get off the ground.

Having relevant social media accounts can also boost your presence online. Of course, you should only sign up if you have the time to update the accounts: there’s nothing worse than seeing a Facebook account that only has one sad and lonely post!

Team up

Consider partnering with another company to help expose yourself to another set of customers. You can set up competitions, give their customers special discounts, or have a display in their store in return for doing the same for your partner.

You can even partner with someone to do something as simple as securing a regular blogging spot on their website or a regular shout out on their social networks.

When partnering up with another company you should be mindful as to whether your potential partner will be relevant to your customers, and vice-versa.

Go above the line

There’s nothing wrong with doing a little offline marketing, so investing in some advertising in local papers or on the radio can do wonders for your business.

A pop up space can also be ingenious if you’ve got a new product you’d like to launch, or if you’d like to market your business in a new areas. It’s not as expensive as you may think and is a lot more interesting than regular advertising.

If you’ve been thinking of opening a pop up shop for PR purposes, then get in touch with us. We source property on demand so can find you the perfect space to boost your publicity.