With great care not to hurt my friend's feelings, I endeavoured to point out her mistake; but she argued that the thing she aimed at was specialisation, and she, for that week, anyhow, was specialising in hosiery.
Of course, to a point, she was right-windows are dressed with one article throughout, so that you have handkerchief windows, tie windows, and so forth. But there is a difference between dressing a window and hanging rows of uninteresting footwear in dead-looking rows flat against a window.
This lady, however, had ruined herself, for men frequenting the neighbouring club, as well as boys going to and from school, used to laugh loudly at " Madame Socks," as they called her, and in a few months she came to the conclusion that the only thing to do was to put up the shutters. That is, indeed, the only thing to do when people who ought to be your customers laugh at you. The shopkeeper who appears ridiculous in the eyes of the world is not properly equipped for her avocation.
For the clothing trade some experience is really necessary, although cute women have made businesses in this line in busy suburbs and country towns with nothing more than a couple of hundred pounds capital, mother wit, and a well-chosen shop. The rent of the shop should not exceed three to four per cent, of the anticipated returns, and working expenses should be kept under fifteen per cent. Thirty-three per cent, should be added to all cost prices, and cash business insisted upon. Firms such as Foster Porter's or Ryland's, of London, should be approached for many departments of the stock. The trade papers are the "Drapers' Record," "Men's Wear," and "The Outfitter."
So popular is this line of business to women with small capital that I have found in various towns numbers of sweet-shops within a few yards of each other. But here, as in all other branches of shopkeeping, the new confectioner will, whilst selecting a good position in a thoroughfare along which many people pass, see that she does not settle down too close to well-established competitors. Given the right spot in a neighbourhood where the woman is at home, a confectioner's shop is an excellent opening for one with a sense of the artistic, some knowledge of business, or at least natural aptitude for business, and of a bright and pleasant address.
A great deal of capital is not essential. The most important things are dainty window-dressing, cleanliness and brightness in the shop itself, and a stock of fresh sweets of the best quality that can be supplied for the price charged.
The cost of fitting up the shop will vary according to the neighbourhood and the style of customer to be catered for; but it is a mistake to invest more than necessary in shop fittings, which do not realise well in the event of it being necessary to dispose of them. Twenty to thirty pounds would buy the first stock, which must be purchased of one of the best manufacturers, whose names may be gathered from a glance in the window of a good competitor who has been successful in the neighbourhood.
The manufacturers will be found very willing to give every advice and assistance as to the particular neighbourhood's requirements, and in many cases they will give the novice a week or two's run of their wholesale depot, thus giving her an opportunity of learning a good deal as to the nature and manufacture of the goods she is to deal in. There, too, she will learn much as to the management of her stock so as to get the most profit.
Once the shop is opened, these are the following points to bear in mind:
The old stock must be disposed of before the new is broken into. Yet, at the same time, it is better to sacrifice the old stock than to allow the shop to get a name for selling stale goods.
The shopkeeper must study customers' fads, and endeavour to make each one think that she is making a special study of each customer's likes and dislikes.
Particular seasons must be catered for, as, for example, bonbons at Christmas, eggs at Easter, and so on. The wholesale houses will keep one posted well in advance as to these, and many other seasonable and special lines.
The average rate of profit should be thirty per cent., a rate which is often advanced, and ten per cent, must be allowed for depreciation. The trade paper is "Confectionery," and a useful book - "Confectionery" Diary and Trade Year Book (Maclaren & Sons, 37 and 38, Shoe Lane, London, E.c.).
Although cycling has had its best days, and motors have spoiled the main roads for the wheelman, there are still spots where a fair business may be done in the summer months, if one has a "stand by" for the winter. One advantage, at least, is that the owner of the cyclists' rest spends the best months of the year under favourable health conditions, and this, after all, is something for which people cooped up in towns wouldand, indeed, often do-pay a good deal. A capable housewife with a happy disposition can earn a good addition to her income in a cottage on a cycling road near a town. The establishment should have a garden or lawn in front, with trees, a cycle-shed and outhouse for storage of cycles. The aspect of the place should be made dainty by the aid of fresh flowers and clean drapery; for folks travel into the country to see only pleasant things, and an untidy, ill-kept cyclists' rest is an eyesore, and will certainly not attract a paying clientele.
Very little outlay is necessary if we have the ordinary household furniture suitable for the cottage, and only a few pounds will be required for chairs, tables, linen, crockery, etc. A signboard should be hung in a position where it will catch the eye of the motorist or cyclist before he reaches the cottage. A pleasant manner and prompt service are essential, whilst the bread, butter, and tea should be of the very best. Soda-and-milk, mineral waters of all kinds-and of good quality-ices, cakes, biscuits, sandwiches, etc., should be supplied. From ninepence to a shilling should be charged for a tea. In a good cottage, rightly situated, a profit of about fifty pounds may be made during the season.
In the drapery business experience is undoubtedly necessary, and this is not hard to find, seeing that apprentices are taken in nearly all established businesses for three or four years. A good all-round experience may be obtained in any fair-sized establishment.
In Scotland outdoor apprentices are taken at a small weekly wage of 6s. or 8s. Improvers learning through a training house get £20 a year indoors, and 9s. to £1 a week outdoors, with meals additional.
A young woman who has gained the necessary experience may do well on her own account if she selects a good " pitch " and possesses about £300 to £500 capital, but many people have begun with much less. In a future part will appear a special article on the way to start a drapery business with £500, showing every item of outlay-where to spend and where to save. Speaking generally, a shop should be well placed in a' main street much used by promenaders. £50 should cover the cost of fittings (on a £300 basis). A light stock should be purchased, and extended in directions popular in the neighbourhood. Profit averages 22 1/2 to 25 per cent., if stock be turned over four times a year. An assistant would cost £18 to £20 a year in addition to bis or her keep.
To be continued.