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Catching the love Bug: how the Strike of Cupid’s bow will affect Manchester’s small businesses

POSTED: 14th February 2014
IN: Business news
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For the UK's most romantically-inclined small businesses, the 14th February can bring a welcome boost in trade following a traditionally quiet January.

Love-struck Brits are expected to spend £880m celebrating Valentine's Day - and the vast majority of those will be men splashing out on flowers, chocolates, romantic meals, perfume, jewellery and other customary treats for their female friends.

In fact, to cater for the increased demand, major Derbyshire-based chocolatier, Thorntons, is expected to produce an extra 1bn individual chocolates using an additional 110,000kg of the stuff.

But how does this upsurge in demand affect small businesses that need to cater for the increased business whilst maintaining a steady cash-flow? Does it bring a welcome opportunity to set aside some business savings for the rest of the year? We asked five Manchester-based businesses how the amorous atmosphere would affect their trade over the coming week - with some surprising answers.

Northern Flower

As might be expected, the boutique flower shop in Manchester's bohemian Northern Quarter was one of the businesses we spoke to that would be most affected by the seasonal rush. The owners, Rouwen and Liz always look forward to Valentine's Day as they tend to get plenty of orders so can plan for the extra custom well in advance.

- Preparation

The shop is usually gearing up for Valentine's Day as far as six months in advance, as they have to plan what they're going to create for the coming year and how much of it they think they can sell, to get their orders in with the suppliers in good time. However, that doesn't mean there's any let-off on the day as all arrangements have to be made fresh on-site.

Four extra drivers are recruited to handle the extra demand for deliveries and four members of staff man the shop, rather than the usual two.

- The competition

Due to the lack of fresh florists in Manchester city-centre, Northern Flower doesn't really feel the pressures of competition, and the only marketing efforts they undertake are via Twitter and Instagram.

Rouwen and Liz believe they have a loyal customer base to thank for that, and for that reason will be passing on the price decreases they've received from their suppliers this year to offer cheaper Valentine's Day flowers.

- What does Valentine's Day mean for Northern Flower?

When they're not busy with seasonal events, weddings tend to keep them busy year-round, so Northern Flower manages to keep a healthy cash-flow year-round. However, seasonal events like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Christmas and - increasingly - International Women's Day, do provide a welcome boost.

To visit the website, go to: http://northernflower.com/

 

Jack Spratt

Restaurateur and owner of the trendy city centre dining spot 'Jack Spratt', Marcus, looks forward to the guaranteed boost in revenue that Valentine's Day promises, revealing that he's already almost fully booked for the big night.

- Preparation

The restaurant is expected to be packed out and current capacity is 160 covers, so it's imperative that all staff are on top form for the busy night. This year, Marcus has planned a dedicated Valentine's Day menu with a fixed price of £30 per head, which he believes makes it easier to both sell and satisfy, keeping customers happy.

- The competition

Like any UK city, Manchester is rife with good quality restaurants and bars, all of which specially cater for couples on Valentine's Day. Jack Spratt can't compete with the big marketing budgets of some of the larger and louder establishments, but gets by on social media, word of mouth and loyal customers returning again and again, which is why it's so important to keep them happy!

Luckily, small independent businesses seem to thrive in indie-loving Manchester - and long may it continue.

- What does Valentine's Day mean for Jack Spratt?

Whilst Valentine's Day undoubtedly provides a welcome boost to trade, Jack Spratt's flagship calendar event is Hallowe'en, when diners are encouraged to eat in fancy dress and take advantage of free drinks and dinner offers. Because not many of the other restaurants in Manchester cash in on this particular holiday, they've carved out a niche that seems to be successful year on year.

 

Al Bacio

Another independent Manchester eatery, the family-run Al Bacio relies solely on positive word-of-mouth to drum up business. This year, they have been completely booked up on Valentine's Day weeks in advance.

- Preparation

Like at Jack Spratt, the owner of Al Bacio, Dominic, has prepared for the influx of happy couples by creating a fixed, competitively-priced menu at £40 per head.

He believes this works for the restaurant because they're usually catering for loyal customers or new ones off the back of word-of-mouth, so people know what to expect when they turn up and are happy to pay for it.

- The competition

Al Bacio prides itself on serving the most authentic Italian food, so doesn't feel that there's any major competition from larger nearby restaurants like San Carlo. They don't believe in marketing - Dominic's mantra is that 'the food does the talking', so all new business comes from positive reviews.

- What does Valentine's Day mean for Al Bacio?

Valentine's Day brings a nice lift in trade for Dominic, but he says: "it's a nice boost but we're always thinking about the next event, we don't worry too much about money."

 

Arthur Kay & Bro Jewellers

Arthur Kay & Bro has been an established jeweller in Manchester city centre since 1953, and still remains a family-run business today. Surprisingly, the jewellers say Valentine's Day doesn't affect their business at all and they won't be expecting an increase in sales on the big day.

- Preparation

Apart from the odd engagement ring, the family don't expect to see a change to their custom from Valentine's Day so there's no preparation required. In fact, the only time they do see an uplift in revenue is at Christmas and the only other major player in affecting sales is the weather - they find sales are much healthier in the summer when the weather is nice than when it's cold and wet in winter.

- The competition

Customers of Arthur Kay tend to be very loyal, and the family have often seen people grow up shopping in their store without ever venturing elsewhere - it goes full circle as people start off buying for their parents and grandparents and then children, and vice versa.

- What does Valentine's Day mean for Arthur Kay & Bro?

Nothing!

To visit Arthur Kay & Bro's website, go to: http://www.arthurkayjewellers.com/

 

Cocoa Cabana Chocolatiers

West Didsbury-based Cocoa Cabana's out-of-town location means that it doesn't have to compete with the high-street chains like Hotel Chocolat. Like Northern Flower, the chocolatier has had to prepare well in advance for what they believe will be a nice boost in trade over the Valentine's period.

- Preparation

Preparation for any seasonal boost needs to be carried out six months in advance so ample stock is available to fulfil customer orders. Before now, the company only traded online, but now that she has opened a shop, owner Sarah believes this preparation period might need to extend to 12 months before long.

The main obstacle is fitting the event around the influx of orders for Christmas, Easter and weddings - and because the different holidays tend to have distinct themes, the products she's making change though the year.

- The competition

Because of the village location, Cocoa Cabana doesn't face much competition locally. However, Sarah does feel that the increase in boutique chocolatiers creating their products on-site is a worry, as this is one of her unique selling points; customers come to her for that home-made quality that they can't get elsewhere.

- What does Valentine's Day mean for Cocoa Cabana?

Another shining example of a thriving independent business, Cocoa Cabana is busy all year round. However, there are some months where chocolate is less popular than others, so for that reason, they're grateful for the welcome lift in sales that seasonal events like Valentine's Day bring.

To check out the range or place your order of Cocoa Cobana chocolate, visit: http://www.cocoa-cabana.co.uk/

 

With the exception of the jewellers, Valentine's Day seems to provide a welcome boost to Manchester's independent businesses across the board after a typically quiet January.

Though not all of the businesses recorded an enormous boost in business from the romantic holiday, most admitted that they needed to plan well in advance for the extra custom it brings. Whether that's planning a special menu, intensifying the company's marketing efforts, or ordering extra raw materials, there's usually an up-front cost involved, and this can impact cash-flow.

For more information about small business banking and finance, pay a visit to our product pages or get in touch to speak to one of Aldermore's advisors today.

 

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