It is quite extraordinary how things come together at times.
I was driving along a relatively quiet road near the Imperial War Museum in south London the other day and noticed a new tattoo parlour. Nothing unusual you may think, but to me it seemed an unusual opening. That’s until I opened Tuesday’s copy of the FT and saw the headline “Tattoo parlours make their mark on changing high streets”. The article examined how smaller businesses are using current vacancy rates to their advantage and it said tattoo parlours have more than doubled in the past four years, while bookmakers and coffee shops have also benefited. According to Allegra Strategies the coffee market shows no signs of slowing down and the current number of 16,500 will reach 20,500 in four years’ time.
As one of the tattooists quoted in the article said: “You can’t get a tattoo delivered.” This resonated with me as we are also looking for new sites for Konditor & Cook. While our online/delivery business shows excellent growth rates, we see it as part of our strategy to provide customers with a direct retail experience.
The most successful retailers are meant to be the ones that offer a broad platform - not just clicks, but also bricks. Some customers want a delivery, others prefer click-and-collect and many still want to immerse themselves in a good old-fashioned shop; complete with tantalising visual stimulation, smells associated with freshly baked goods, the aromas of coffee wafting through the air, the chitter-chatter of customers interacting and the sound of tills ringing in happiness.
As well as reaping the benefits of online shopping, we are looking at ways to improve the customer’s in-store experience. How can you create a buzz that appeals to new and younger audiences?
In our store on Borough Market (the one of Eurovision mention fame) we ran a successful DIY cake experience last Saturday. ‘Decorate-it-yourself’ was the motto as we gave customers the opportunity and necessary guidance to interact and decorate their own biscuits or even birthday cakes. On a rain-swept and dull day it warmed many a heart and created a welcome buzz, with groups of people enjoying themselves around a communal kitchen table.
We are looking forward to providing more Instagram-able and tweet-able moments this coming Sunday as we are getting ready for a family ‘Cake Fete’, with a program of speed eating (filled scones – yummy, yummy), icing selfies, meringue bobbing and the opportunity to take a pastry brush and help create London’s sweetest painting. While these events do not immediately translate into more sales, they are a great source for capturing customer data and telling them about our services and products in a relaxed atmosphere - the goodwill attached is priceless.
If craft bakers and cake makers want to set themselves apart and still want to have a presence on the high street, I believe we need to occasionally provide these kind of campaigns as they really help to connect us with our customers.
Already the number of baking courses, cake decorating classes and cookery demos on offer seems to be ever-increasing, a signal that the winds of change are already blowing.
And while I won’t be queuing up for my own tattoo just yet, I will go so far as to admit that tattoo art can be greatly inspiring when it comes to finding a design language in cake decorating.