Small Business: Christmas staff - Kylee Davis

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Kylee Davis, knitwear designer and retailer, Kylee Davis Knitwear

Kylee Davis, knitwear designer and retailer.
Kylee Davis, knitwear designer and retailer.

Tell us about your retail offer

Kylee Davis Knitwear specialises in quality NZ-made knits for creative and confident women.

We've got some very loyal followers who have been with me since my Stitch Ministry and Insidious Fix days - that's nearly 20 years now. All our designs are manufactured in small production runs, so you notice the quality. It's also important to us to support local people and local businesses. We've been primarily online and in a few boutique stores, but we recently opened a pop-up store at 9 Mt Eden Road, Grafton. I've also just launched a new homewares line - Kylee Davis Interiors, which includes cushions, rugs and some innovative knitted lights.

What else have you done in retail?

I was the director/designer of Insidious Fix back in 1995-2007 and we had a boutique in Newmarket for a few years called Esoteric.

Stitch Ministry had a concept store but because it was located at our workrooms in Onehunga I never felt like it was a full-blown retail store so it is exciting to once again be presenting my designs in a dedicated environment.

What have you learned over the years about how to motivate and organise staff to sell well, especially at Christmas?

I know a lot of customers can find the festive season a stressful time of the year so, personally, I like to make retail fun and friendly and mix it up a little. If the staff are in a exciting but relaxed workplace then it's easier to manage stress levels and having a upbeat and welcoming atmosphere in store makes for a better experience for customers.

Good music, lots of freshly brewed tea and tons of laughter makes the shopping experience less stressful for everyone. I personally spend a lot of time in the store - it is my product and name on the door so I like to ensure my customers are getting an amazing experience and I love meeting them.

What are your latest ideas about retailing during a peak season?

I've been working with a business coach, Zac de Silva, on ways to maximise sales over this period. We are introducing new product regularly and ensuring that we have items across all price ranges so that there is something for every budget. For example, our interiors line has luxurious $550 king-size blankets, but it also has these super cool knitted lights that are only $49. Knits are so tactile and a bit sensual so a physical store allows customers to engage and feel the quality of product. We are open seven days a week in the lead up to Christmas and, to make it easier for time-poor customers, we even have some spontaneous late nights (see our Facebook page). I also host fun, intimate events for our customers. One is Stitch & Bitch, where gals are encouraged to bring some of the lost arts into the store and create pieces in a circle. Conversation really flows with a bit of wine or tea. I'm also introducing a bespoke shopping service for males who don't know what to get their partner - they can just call the store, give a few personal details about their partner and I'll personally choose the ideal present, add a sweet treat or two, wrap it gorgeously and send it on its merry way, without them needing to angst over it at all!

There have been reports that some retailers not taking on extra staff at Christmas. Do you think taking on extra staff is a good idea at Christmas?

Absolutely - demand goes up at this time of year so it's essential your staffing levels reflect that. People are hectic, so when they rush in to buy something they need prompt service, as well as a great experience. Long lines or rushed service are a no-go for me.

How should temporary staff be trained during this time?

For all retailers, staff need to have a thorough understanding of product knowledge - where things are made, specialty features of products and things that make them unique from everyone else. As owners of stores, we need to take the time to share our product knowledge and our expectations of service so this can be passed on. Like I say, my name is on the door so an under-trained staff member is a direct reflection on me - I wouldn't take that risk.

What do customers want from retailers at this peak selling time, do you think?

To me, shopping should not vary from season to season - it is an experience. As online sales eat into retail sales, we need to compete with our best weapon: good old fashioned customer service. Personal attention, an eye for detail, being honest about styles and whether they work or don't, product knowledge. It is our job to make the overall experience memorable and unique, exciting and fun - even when the Christmas to-do list is a million miles long.


Next week: A number of enterprising companies are creating apps for their own purposes and for others. There are also a number of apps being developed for small businesses to help them manage their businesses better. I'd like to hear from all of you who are particularly proud of your app especially if it can be used by others too.

- NZ Herald

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