What is the history behind your store and what sets it apart from others?
Aquillis is a joint venture between my mother Marlyn and myself.
She has been making and selling children’s room decorations at craft fairs and events for a number of years.
We started the business in April 2010 when we heard of an available retail space in a Farmers Market and Craft Centre in Ormskirk, an historical market town in Lancashire.
Our original intention was to sell handmade children’s room decorations and we introduced a small selection of traditional toys to complement these products. We quickly found a demand to increase our range of toys and soon outgrew our premises.
We moved to our current town centre location in June 2011. We pride ourselves in offering a range of toys and gifts that aren’t readily available on the High Street.
What kind of toys do you mostly stock?
Our aim has always been to offer something a little bit different to the larger High Street outlets, so we stock mostly traditional wooden toys.
Our range of wooden toys includes everything from shape sorters to dolls houses. A large handmade wooden rocking horse takes pride of place in our window display.
Our selection of toys also includes art supplies, craft kits, puzzles, games and bath toys.
We also stock a collection of soft toys, teddy bears and baby gifts, again with the emphasis being on offering something a bit different.
What is your location and the local competition like?
Aquillis is in a small, traditional arcade of independent retailers situated in the historical town, Ormskirk. We find the quaint feel of the arcade really complements our product range.
We are fortunate to be the only dedicated toy shop within the town, and although there are large retailers such as Argos, we are the only business to offer an extensive range of purely traditional toys.
What toys are selling well for you right now?
Wooden rail systems such as BigJigs rail and Brio are always a great seller for us and something we have recently expanded. We have also recently introduced the Pink Poppy range of children’s jewellery which is proving very popular.
We find Melissa and Doug art and craft sets sell well all year round and are really well priced for birthday presents.
What’s having the most impact on your business?
We have noticed a decrease in footfall in the town centre; this is certainly not helped by the weather. A problem we commonly face is the assumption that we will be more expensive than buying online. Customers are normally pleasantly surprised by our prices and often find they are no more expensive than buying online. The general belief that online is cheaper is difficult to break.
How do you promote your business to your local community?
We find word of mouth to be the most important form of advertising, along with our loyalty card scheme.
Being members of the Ormskirk town team has created a number of opportunities to promote the business including events such as ‘inside out’, where retailers moved onto the High Street for a day with an outside stall to promote their business. We’ve found these sorts of events really effective in allowing us to interact with the community and increase awareness.
What online operations do you have?
We have a website which has a small number of products available to buy online, but the main purpose of the site is to give people an idea of the in-store range.
We have Facebook and Twitter pages and use both to keep customers up to date with products, offers and events.
These sites are also great for receiving customer feedback, what they like and what they would like to see.
What’s in store for Aquillis over the next year?
We are looking ahead to Christmas and the possibility of increasing our selection of toys to include ranges such as Sylvannian Families, LEGO and Playmobil. These are not traditional wooden toys, but they have stood the test of time and would sit well with our current range. We will also look at expanding our online sales and presence, however, the shop will always remain at the heart of the business.