Tom Fletcher is the director of the Yorkshire Shaving Company, a new business that offers a monthly subscription for posting high quality razor blades to customers.
Here's what Tom had to say about Zenstores
It's simple, quick and effective and honestly saves me about an hour a day on average sorting, printing and despatching orders. We ended up transferring two of our websites to shopify just so the orders could go through Zenstores.
Tom isn't new to the game, he's been selling online through various businesses for over 10 years. Here's his story.
Give us a brief overview of your business. Why did you start selling online?
My father had a chiropody supplies business selling products for your feet directly to end users. Then my brother and I expanded the business online, through a very basic website and then on to eBay and Amazon.
In 2006 eBay was popular but it wasn’t the beast it is now, and we kind of hit it at the right time.
We started putting chiropody products on eBay, and that’s where it took off really. At that point actual foot products on eBay were few and far between.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
I would say competition has been our biggest challenge. The amount of people selling on eBay now is unbelievable. If we hadn’t started 10 years ago, I think we would have really struggled to get up to the top of search results.
In the past two years competition has increased ten-fold, so we’ve had to alter prices and we registered a trademark on our products. On eBay we pay for a subtitle because it adds so much more to your listing. We’ve also invested in better photos; we try to make them a bit more arty rather than just a general product picture. And, we’ve tried to play on the whole British thing - we’re a British company in the UK, emphasising that has helped build trust with customers.
What are the key factors that have helped your shop be successful?
eBay has been one of the keys to our success, and the spinning off our surgical blade products into different markets. We realised that the surgical blades used for chiropody are also used in the arts and crafts market as well. So we set up another business just selling blades.
We also sell high quality products - we want it to feel as though you’re not just buying a cheap product, you’re also buying into where it’s come from and the brand it represents. If you want it to be a quality, reliable product then you’ve got to offer a guarantee, you want customers to have a confident experience when using one. With us it’s one phone call, send it back and you’ll get another one in the post the next day.
If you want it to be a quality, reliable product then you’ve got to offer a guarantee
Another factor is that everything we stock is small - so we can stock a thousand razor blades on a shelf two foot wide, and we don’t need a massive warehouse. As a company ethos we’ve always had free postage. The first thing we always think about on a new product is how much does it weigh and will it be classed as a letter, not a parcel.
What are your top recommendations for people starting out?
You’ve got to take risks; not in the products but where and how you sell them. If you’re going to design a website you’ve got to push boundaries in how it looks. It’s very important that the desktop and mobile version look good. Most of our customers are viewing our site on their phones, but you still need to make sure your desktop site looks good.
It’s very important that the desktop and mobile version look good.
Also, use the tools available to you. On Shopify you’ve got lots of apps, and we’ve found that they’ve made our life a lot easier. It can be a gamble sometimes and we’ve lost money. We tried one app that cost us $40 and it was rubbish. And then we’ve tried another called Receiptful which was ten times better, and free. We lost $40 but we also discovered Receiptful which is a brilliant app for sending out personalised e-receipts and having them logged.
On Shopify you’ve got lots of apps, and we’ve found that they’ve made our life a lot easier.
What other tools and apps do you use to run your store?
For the Yorkshire Shaving Company, we send out razors either every month or every two months, and we use a Shopify App called ReCharge for the subscriptions. It’s really easy to setup, and easy to tweak. It fits nicely in Shopify, you can’t even tell it’s an app.
We also use Zenstores to manage our orders - Zenstores has been unbelievable for me. I’ve looked at different types of software before but I’ve found every one complicated, with a lot of requirements and no personal touch whatsoever.
The actual Zenstores software is so simple, and that’s what you need. You haven’t got time to look into software and when I opened Zenstores, I knew what was going on straight away, that’s what you need.
What do you do in your spare time?
I record a popular Bradford City football podcast with my friend Dom, called Bantams Banter. It came about one day when we decided to record ourselves talking during a football match, and it has grown from there. Now we've recorded over 100 episodes, and each one is sponsored and gets around 15,000 downloads. We even recorded a podcast with Alan Davies on the Tuesday Club which has over 500,000 listeners.