You’d guess it would take a pretty special shop to catch the attention of The Telegraph and Mary Portas and ultimately to win an award. It’s clear when talking to Corina Papadopoulou, that a keen eye for detail, in every element of her business, was key to her recent accolade.
The business plan seems to be working as, since setting up the store and the online outlet in 2008, it has seen consistent year-on-year growth.
Perhaps the most important thing when setting Kidsen apart from other children’s shops is its unique product offering. Papadopoulou believes in order to get the sales, you need to offer something different, which is reflected in the range of clothes, shoes, gifts and not least, toys.
Brio was one of the first toy lines offered by Kidsen, as its heritage appealed to the Scandinavian businesswoman and initially, it served as her bestselling range.
Papadopoulou has continued to source lesser-known brands like I’m Toy, Plan, Lucky Boy Sunday and Vulli, among others.
“I think as a small independent you have to differentiate yourself. And even if you find something different, the minute it goes a little bit mainstream, you have to constantly look for the next thing and move on. We are definitely sticking with Brio because obviously we love the brand, and it’s made in Scandinavia, but we are definitely looking at other things.”
Secondly, a loyal customer base is imperative to Kidsen’s business. Papadopoulou tells ToyNews: “I have a regular customer base and for that I am so grateful to them. Probably one of the reasons we won The Telegraph award is that we are in a real community area, where people are conscious of the concept: ‘If I don’t shop in my local High Street, I will not have a local High Street’.”
She continues: “I even have some customers who consciously see something somewhere else, but they will come and check if I have it first, which is just so lovely.”
This kind of loyalty is likely bought about by outstanding customer service. “I know children’s names, I know what shoes fit certain kids, that sort of thing. We try to offer a really personal service here.”
With all of this in place, it comes as little surprise that the interior of the shop itself is stunning. Colourful, well-thought out displays sit against clean white backgrounds with interesting details like the blackboard behind the bright yellow paystation, which is designed by a mystery, world famous artist.
Papadopoulou offers: “We knew we didn’t want Ikea fittings, but we were doing it on a shoe-string. It’s child-friendly and there’s lots of space. I can’t stand crammed shops. I think it makes a difference.”
And the final part of the plan? Shout about what you are doing. Kidsen is active on its website blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Papadopoulou concludes: “Social media is definitely important.”
All of this combined helped Kidsen to be chosen by journalist Daisy Bridgewater, as winner of the award. And despite her hard work, the independent owner was surprised to win: “To win the award was really shocking, I have to say, I didn’t expect it at all.
“It’s been super hard, so it’s nice, it’s like a pat on the back and reassurance that you’re going in the right direction.”