Blue Eyed Sun

Blue Eyed Sun - gorgeous greetings cards

Awards News

  • Legends of Longton Gift Shop

    I don't know about you, but I'm fascinated with what makes businesses, retailers and especially greeting card publishers succeed when others fail. So I decided to ask our successful customers and blog about it here. I recently interviewed one of our favourite, award winning, customers Alison Wood, owner of Legends of Longton, to discover the retailing secrets behind her success.

    When did you start the business and how did you get into it?

    I bought my business from the previous owners having worked for them prior to my having children. The business came up for sale and although my children were very small, it was "now or never". That was in 1995.

    How would you describe Legends of Longton and your customer base?

    My business premises are just off a prime main road with ample free parking right outside, in the very select and rural village of Longton, near Preston in Lancashire. The shop is distributed over two floors, which are well stocked with an impressive range of goods. Trading for over 25 years the shop has a loyal, mainly local customer base.

    Why do your customers buy from you?

    I think customers come to us and return due to several factors: ambience, product choice, convenience and customer service. Away from the hustle & bustle of the high street, our customers are free to browse at leisure & without obligation, in a relaxing & tranquil atmosphere at the enticing arrays of elegant gifts, beautiful cards & accessories. I’m always on hand to offer advice & help in a friendly & courteous manner. I believe that building a good rapport with my customers is essential.  As part of the personal service, I offer a free gift-wrapping service, which is well received! At Legends, the aim is to provide a pleasurable shopping experience, one that exceeds customer expectations by offering the loveliest products that I can find and that aren't readily found elsewhere especially in our nearest town/city, whilst providing an excellent level of personal service.

    What are the biggest challenges facing your business and how will you meet them?

    One of the biggest challenges facing all businesses in the uk is people listening to & believing the media! There's no doubt we are in a recession, but not everyone is losing their job as the media would have us believe. I think if people actually reviewed their financial situation, they'd realise that they can afford little luxuries & would feel better in this knowledge.

    There is money being spent on the high street. Look at the growth in coffee shops for example. People think nothing of spending £10 on coffee and cake, which is delicious but not as longlasting and enjoyable as a candle at £8.50 say!!

    To overcome these challenges, I am trying everything to keep customers coming back  & telling their friends about us. I have launched an ecommerce site, a loyalty card (which has been well received) and I send out monthly newsletters. This is in addition to using social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. I have also just taken part in an O2 marketing trial and on the first day, gained a new customer.

    It is also a time to focus more than ever before. Every item of expenditure on the P&L has been analysed & cost cutting measures researched and implemented. I have been more focussed on the purchasing side of the businesses, but continue to be loyal to my suppliers especially the ones that help their customers!  I have also got a business mentor to bounce ideas off.

    I notice that you enjoy using twitter. Why do you use it and has it been good for business?

    Yes, I love Twitter. Being a sole proprietor can be  lonely and isolating, but Twitter is an ideal place to look for support and, in turn, support others. I have made some great friends and we support each other in these challenging times. There is a wealth of information to be found and utilized via Twitter. It's lovely to feel that we are all helping each other too! I have gained a few new customers and also found some lovely new suppliers that perhaps I wouldn't have found otherwise. It's great for forging stronger bonds and links with suppliers too.

     Do you trade online? If so what's your top tip for online selling? 

    I have only just launched my e-commerce site so it is too early to say, but once again Twitter has lots of expert help and advice. The only problem is there aren't enough hours in the day to read all the articles I "favourite"!

    Tell us about your recent award win. What was it for and why do you think you won?

    Last year I was nominated by a customer (whom I'd met via Twitter) for the category of "Retailer of the Year 2011" in the Enterprise and Vision awards. It was a nerve wracking process. Just writing a profile about myself and my business was hard. I can complement and rave about other people and their achievements, but when it comes to talking about or promoting myself it's a different matter!

    Then, having got through the first stage, it was a case of preparing a presentation to make in front of a panel of judges. The last time I gave a presentation was at school , many decades ago and I'd only got the vaguest idea of what a powerpoint presentation was! Fortunately, my business mentor was very helpful and supportive! I almost cried with relief when it was all over!! The marks from the judges were added to the number of votes received by each semi-finalist. I was up against excellent and strong competition so never thought in a million years I'd win. The results were announced at a fabulous award ceremony. I was shocked when my name was read out. I still can't believe it.

    I think I won because I showed that even after 16 years of trading I remain passionate about what I do, that my level of customer service and product choice are of high quality and that I am open to new ideas/methods in a rapidly changing world.

    Why do you stock Blue Eyed Sun cards?

    Oh this is such an easy question! Firstly it was because one of my favourite agents showcased them to me - Paul Tweedie is friendly, professional and well respected by me and I'm sure by many others too! If he shows me a product I can trust the quality and ethics of the company & believe that they'll be perfect for my shop.

    Secondly, the product, great prices, excellent quality, different to other designs, new designs every year ( don't know how you come up with so many!) and, most importantly, they sell! Last, but not least, Blue Eyed Sun is such a lovely company with lovely people who are professional & friendly and feel like friends!! Keep up the good work!!

    If card publishers could do one thing to improve their businesses what would it be?

    None of the following apply to Blue Eyed Sun, but a lot of other companies could learn from you. The following are all important but at the moment: Reasonable carriage paid limits say £100-£150 is the most important.

    Also important are: Introducing new designs at least annually. Being loyal to your stockists and not placing product in every other shop! Prompt deliveries. Accept payment by credit card/debit card/BACS & cheque. Online ordering system. Nice rep/agent.

    Thanks so much for your kind words and your generous insights into the secrets of your retail success, Alison!

    You can visit Alison's website at and follow @legendsoflongton on Twitter by clicking here

    Nominate yourself or any retailer for Retailer of the Year 2012 at this years Eva's by clicking here.

    Note to our Retailers

    If you are a Blue Eyed Sun stockist and would like your shop featured on our blog, or promoted on our Twitter and Facebook feeds, please email us some high res images of how Blue Eyed Sun's cards are displayed in your shop and a nice shot of your store front. We'd love to hear about any of your promotional, window display or retail success stories too.

    Click here for Blue Eyed Sun's contact details.

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