Yet for many small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), opening a shop is sometimes the only way to gain significant exposure, to get consumers eating their frozen yogurt or wearing their hand knitted jumpers. "The retail chain locks a lot of small distributors out," Spicer added. "So if you think about the food sector, or clothing and so forth, small businesses who have wonderful products aren't able to get to market. Opening your own store is an alternative route to market, a way of getting around the big stores."
By sidestepping larger retailers, companies with their own shops can also form a close relationship with their clientele and create a strong identity. "If you're developing a product and just sticking it in a shop, you never know what people think about it," Wright said. "We had thousands of customers coming through the shop all the time, giving their honest feedback on what we were doing. It was massively helpful with product development."
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Entrepreneurs need to think very carefully, however, about whether their numbers add up before deciding to launch a retail space. There's no getting around it: opening a shop is expensive. "You've got to fund the losses, you've got to fund the deposit, you've got to fund the stock, you've got to fund the shop fit," Charles Denton, CEO of skincare company Erno Laszlo, told CNBC's The Business Class. "There wouldn't be much change out of that."
And they should be under no illusion that, for all the benefits, running a store is hard, hard work. "The shop was profitable from day one and our running costs were really low," Wright said. "We were living above the shop to start with and we both worked all day, every single day. We didn't take any money out of the business ourselves, apart from the bare minimum to survive on."
Should, then, every SME open up its own shop? "No," Spicer said. "First of all you need to think about your product: if building an experience and community around that product is really vital and something you can't do online, then opening a store is a really good option. But if it's more of a commodity, and more about just getting the product out there, then a store is probably not ideal."
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Wright and Williams closed their shop at the end of September, but for the right reasons. Theirs is a good news story. With tubs of Lick now being sold throughout the U.K. and stocked by big retailers such as Ocado and Sainsbury's, they have decided to shut up shop so they can devote all of their time to expanding, focusing on production and distribution.
And if they had to do it all over again, would they change anything? "What I would do – if I was starting again from scratch – is stuff like pop up shops, or food stalls in places like Borough Market, which don't have constant, on-going overheads. If the reason you're doing it is to get customer feedback and some brand awareness, then that stuff can all be better done using pop up shops, without having the commitment of being locked into an actual premises."