Toby Beardsall, Beardsalls~Print~Designs~Signs in Shanklin, Ryde and Newport
“Expanding and diversifying into new markets”, said Toby Beardsall, of Beardsalls the stationery and art materials shops in Ryde, Shanklin and most recently Newport.
“Best thing I did. Without a doubt.”
“I nearly didn't do it.” he continued, “I was really on the fence for a long time...”
"We were providing commercial office products for local businesses out of our storeroom behind the Ryde shop for several years. I really wasn't sure expanding would work, so committing to new rental and staff costs was a daunting thought. But the access for bulky furniture and pallet-loads of stock was very difficult in the shop, the storeroom wasn't big enough and the office space I had earmarked for a residential redevelopment to capitalise on my investment.
“Retail on the High Street is changing with the internet – it's so easy to order stuff online now. And domestic printing is slowing stationery sales too – it's as though hand-writing is going out of fashion! But it's still sought out by people who want that personal touch.
And I enjoy the personal contact with customers and suppliers: the internet doesn't offer that."
as published by IW County Press, Column by Dave Simon, continues below.
The High Street has been in trouble over the last few years.
Commentary by Dave Simon
National retailers have disappeared, discount shops have arrived and local family-run shops have been squeezed out.
The traditional scene has changed and out-of-town alternatives have become popular.
Parking charges, business rates and internet-shopping have been blamed.
Experts warn that once a high street has fallen into decline it can be very difficult to reverse.
Thankfully, the alarming closure rate of 2013 has reduced, and interest in High Street shopping has risen, national statistics say.
Small independent businesses are the heart of our local community. They offer a personal welcome, individual service and often take special orders for regular customers. And they generate wealth that spreads around the Island, employment for local people and opportunities for progress.
With our support, local traders contribute daily to the Island's future.
The interview with Toby Beardsall continued:
“Since ‘taking the plunge’ with the new warehouse and sales room in Sandown, opportunities to form a strategic alliance have presented themselves. We now have a blossoming business supplying Island businesses with affordable office products including photocopiers and printers with locally-based technical support and servicing.
Where I Started
“I was catapulted into this business when my parents decided to retire at the millennium. They had run the shop in Shanklin for 40 years. At the time, I had a desk job and got promoted or moved myself every couple of years. My sister wasn't interested, so I said “I'll take it on” - not quite knowing what it involved!
"Now I have to live and die by my own decisions, without any formal business training.
"And I've made a few mistakes as a result – some of them quite expensive. Twice I've bought big bright technology systems that the salesman said would make a difference. But they didn't, and we went back to the old way. It's fine – except that I'm now thousands of pounds poorer with no-one to blame but myself.
"Failing is a big fear for me. If it all went wrong, my whole life plan would be shattered, and I would have to start all over again, aged 44! But I do think it's healthy to be frightened once in a while. American Columnist Mary Schmich said 'Do something that scares you every day': giving rise to the song Wear Sunscreen by Baz Lurhmann. I like that song, it’s almost profound.
Profit is Key
"To stay in business, I have to make a profit. Some of that profit is what keeps me and my family alive. Profit is key: my Dad used to tell me – and it's still true today: 'Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity'.
"There is a temptation to be cheap and hope to be busy. It's just not that easy. I have several thousand products, so keeping tabs on all the offers, discounts and bundles is difficult.
"I think many people do not realise how thin the profit is. They just see all the cash going into the till and they think it's all mine. They forget the bills I have to pay, the wages I have to pay and of course the taxman... Owning a business is not all it seems to be!
"Some say that independent traders will have their day again. I say business men like me create their own destiny through commitment, diversification and sheer determination.
"The Island is in a difficult situation – trying to sell bucket-and-spade holidays, but cross-Solent travel makes it too expensive for the families who want to come. I can only think that if the Island could evolve an identity like the Eco-Island project, but not necessarily on the environmental theme: something like that might draw people together to encourage more entrepreneurial spirit – and create jobs and excitement.
Balance and Determination
"I was thrown in at the deep end – I wasn't prepared for it. I've survived for over 15 years, without help. With little advice or coaching. Recently my doctor to told me I had to slow down. I had been working too hard for too long. I am not an empire builder like the Branson’s or Sugar’s of this world and although I get bored easily, I have realised the more efficient way to work is to stay healthy and happy, strike a good balance. It gives you far clearer vision.
"I admire people who are determined, resolute: those who don't give up. I worked for the late Noel Lister (the founder of MFI) for many years, he once said to me “You have to show commitment in business, play the long game: it’s hard in the early days, but it will pay you back eventually.”
"And so that is my advice to those new in business: force yourself to face each problem head on, never give up and Always Try Your Hardest. Second best only serves to deflate and undermine. Oh and listen to ‘Wear Sunscreen’ if you get a chance!"