Freshen Up! How Sheffield’s original vintage store is relishing a post-lockdown challenge

Reduced numbers, video shopping calls, personal appointments, and a new website – it’s all change down at Sheffield’s original vintage store Freshmans. People have digitalized their habits during lockdown a lot. Online shopping on various stores with free returns, online entertainment with new customer offers on Unibet, the options are countless! But owner Louisa Frogatt is relishing the challenge, as we know – a comeback is greater than a setback!

Can you tell us a bit about the changes implemented at Freshmans before reopening?
It was a difficult one because I originally did a complete turnaround in the shop. I moved the entire store around and it just didn’t look like us anymore, so I decided to move it back and focus on numbers instead. I’m restricting how many are coming in, so there’s only six that can come in at any one time. We’re pushing for people to sanitise when entering and leaving the store. We do pride ourselves on a personable shopping experience and we don’t want to lose that too much, so social distancing and restricting numbers seems the best way to do it.

How have you been finding this ‘new normal’ in the store?
It is starting to become a bit more natural, yeah. I can keep on top of the cleaning and the six people rule makes things easier to manage and keeps it all safer. Will I change the rules even if the lockdown is eased further and allows for it? Probably not as it stands. In fact, the changes have actually made it quite pleasant in some ways. With fewer people in we can get around a bit easier and make sure everyone’s happy. I’m also offering one-on-one appointments to people who might be a bit scared of shopping with others.

What were your main concerns with reopening and how did you get around those?
I knew I could provide a safe environment, but I was concerned with how a lot of the students aren’t here, we’ve got no festivals, and a lot of stock is geared towards Sheffield events like Tramlines and Club Tropicana at The Leadmill and festival season in general. In terms of getting around those it’s about offering the customers an incentive, a way of thanking them for coming back in again, so we’ve gone into sale on that stock. We’re still 80% down at least on the amount of people coming into town, but it’s positive in a sense because the people that are making the effort are coming in because they primarily want to shop.

You have a loyal customer base at Freshmans. How did you manage to keep those relationships going through the lockdown?
Literally just by chatting to people on Instagram and staying in touch, not just about the business side of things but also about general day-to-day stuff. I wasn’t the shopkeeper during that period; I was the mum at home trying to deal with everything as many other people were. I think this lockdown makes you realise that the people who work in the shops you use every week, or those in pubs and the bars you go to, you realise it’s a deeper relationship that just a customer/worker thing. I felt really blessed when some regulars told me the first place they came when revisiting town was Freshmans. That really got me.

How might the next few months pan out for retail do you think?
I think when non-essential retail first reopened, it was almost like something to do and a novelty for people who’d been cooped up for so long. However, I do think that will die down and we will see a tough few months. However, you’ve got to stay positive and I’m hoping that the good relationships with our customers will see us through in that respect.

Talking about moving forward, you’ve also just launched a website recently?
Yeah, we launched that the other week – – and have started putting products online. It’s a little bit slow at the moment because we are known first and foremost as a store to visit in Sheffield, but it’s great to see us on a website and hopefully that’ll grow in time. There’s also a click & collect service plus a local delivery service, so that could be beneficial for people who might not want to come into or spend much time in town. I’ve even been doing video calls with people unable to come into the store where I’ll ask they’re looking for and show them what we’ve got in. It’s about adapting and going the extra mile really.

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