Retail jeweller on swapping a life on the road for her own shop.
Former Alfred Terry rep Gill Layton-Hill and her daughters Lauren and Leanne opened up jewellery store Sarah Layton in Whalley, Lancashire, in 2010 and its rapid expansion won Gill a place in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers as Ti Sento Retail Star. Gill speaks to us about the challenges of launching a new business, the key role supportive suppliers and why working hard is the key to success.
Professional Jeweller: You are a relatively new retailer on the scene, having opened up your store with your daughters Leanne and Lauren in 2010. What has the reaction been from the industry and you customers?
Gill Layton-Hill: Almost all of our suppliers have actively supported us from the outset with many going that extra mile to help ensure our brand representation was the best it could be. Whalley is a lovely little village in the beautiful picturesque Ribble Valley and has always been a destination place for shoppers and people who just want a nice day out. We have some very long-established businesses here which attract people from far and wide and it is nice when those customers now tell us we are on their list of reasons why they come to Whalley. The villagers have made us feel very welcome and often call in just to compliment us on our shop, as well as buy.
PJ: How did you find your way into jewellery retail?
GL-H: Retailing is in my blood. My parents and grandparents ran their own retail businesses and I owned my first business at 19. In my 30s I decided to have a complete change and went to work for a gift company as a sales representative, becoming their sales training manager, selling into gift shops and jewellers. I preferred selling to jewellers – a much nicer industry – so when the opportunity arose I left and went to work for Alfred Terry. As for my daughters, Leanne started her career with independent jewellers Robert Openshaw and Brinks Jewellers and then went to work at Goldsmiths, while Lauren was a Sales Agent for Jersey Pearl.
PJ: You expanded your store in May, tripling the floorspace. Tell us more about that.
GL-H:There were several brands we had been talking to more or less from the day we first opened that we wanted to stock but we knew we just didn’t have the space to do the brands justice, which was very frustrating. We didn’t envisage anything would change for a long time so we were very excited when we heard just before Christmas last year that the shop next door would becoming vacant in January. There was no hesitation whatsoever; we just jumped at the opportunity. The shop is now three times its original size, which enabled us to have a Georg Jensen shop-in-shop, increase the range of the brands we already stocked and take on more brands.
PJ: How did you celebrate the opening of the bigger store?
GL-H: We had a launch party which we called our Summer Event Party. We wanted to launch our new store and give something back to our customers so the event wasn’t intended as a selling event, although it turned out to be with unexpectedly high sales not just during the event but for several days afterwards. We had great support from some of our brand partners which included lots of giveaways, goody bags and free-to-enter competitions with lots of brilliant prizes on offer. The reps and agents who gave up their free time and worked really hard supporting us were fantastic and we are very grateful.
PJ: You have also launched online this year. How has that worked out?
GL-H: We launched our online sales at sarahlayton.co.uk and the resultant look and success of the site being a window to our retail shop has exceeded all sales expectations.
PJ: What is the biggest challenge facing the Sarah Layton business?
GL-H: Our biggest challenge is time; there just isn’t enough. We try to overcome this with early starts and finishing late. We all work six days a week as well.
PJ: How would you describe your approach to work?
GL-H: Simple – keep going. If you want to be successful then you need to dedicate yourself to it. We are always working on new ideas to drive the business forward. Once the doors are locked at the end of the day, the serious work begins.
PJ: So how do you tend to keep Sarah Layton rolling forward in 2013?
GL-H: I have never been big on planning too far in advance. We bounce ideas off each other daily. Things change so quickly and we want to be able to do the same.