I’m back! Today I’m speaking to Nicola from Bliss Gifts, a lovely little gift shop in town! They sell a true assortment of items and are always so helpful if you need a hand to choose the right thing.
Hello and welcome to the blog. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Nicola Reading. I’m a adopted northerner as can now say I’ve lived in the North longer than in the South – I was born in Bristol.
After a job in financial accounting, I took a career break and raised two boys to school age and then started to consider what I’d like to do. Child care inflexibility meant a normal 9-5 job was out of the question so I decided to look at the wedding services market.
Long story short, I developed a gift list consultancy and after a few years of running that, I was approached by a London firm who had established themselves in the south but were looking to expand into franchises. I embraced this for 5 years but sadly, during the financial crash of 2008, their company went bust.
Never one to give up (but with the wedding list market well and truly defunct) I decided to extend the range of gift products I already offered in our store and as a result, Bliss Gifts was born.
And now we all get to enjoy Bliss Gifts! Tell us a little bit more about your shop please.
Bliss Gifts has evolved over the years but we wanted to predominantly offer affordable but quality gifts to our customers. We wanted to move away from the novelty style shops that are often synonymous with traditional gift shops at at the time.
I identified a niche in Darlington for baby gifts and children’s traditional toys but as time went by it seemed that our customers just enjoyed all elements of our range so we have tailored our range to suit our many loyal customers.
You have the loveliest shop in Darlington. What is it like running a small business in the town?
Our time as a small business in Darlington has been amazing. We have been through some tough times but as a whole customers have always appreciated the range and number of small businesses in our unique market town and continued to shop closer to home.
In order to keep customers interested, we have to constantly evolve and ensure our offering is on trend and fresh. Social media has helped enormously in the last five years from a marketing point of view but I still think that the personal touch and welcoming environment plus beautiful gifts keep our customers excited to come and see us.
I definitely agree about a welcoming environment. What will you do when you close the doors on Christmas Eve?
After what has been an unprecedented year for everyone, closing on Christmas Eve will be an experience like no other. We are all anxious about the future and how we will be affected by Covid and we have a huge amount of hard work ahead over the next three weeks to try and recoup some losses made during the lockdown period.
I think it will be a feet up and count my blessing sort of evening. I’m far luckier than some and I will be very mindful of that fact. As a family, we have been fortunate not to have to say goodbye to anyone during the pandemic and although I’m going to miss my kids terribly as we won’t be seeing them on Christmas Day, a night in front of the log burner and a glass of champagne will be on the menu (and hopefully one of my good friends the Robineau’s famous mince pies).
That sounds lovely! What do you hope to find under the tree this year?
I’m hoping to get rid of some lockdown weight gain. My husband and I plan to invest in a good spinning bike (not sure it will fit under the tree however)!
If you could recommend one gift from your shop this year, what would it be?
Gosh that’s a hard one, recommending one gift, hmm! I think it would have to be one of the beautiful Tuti & Co scarves for the ladies. We sell out every year of this luxury home grown North East brand. The feel and quality of their products for the price is amazing. We have stocked their range of jewellery, accessories and clothing since they launched.
I’ll have to check that out! Why do you think it is so important to shop small?
In my opinion, shopping locally and small is always a good plan. I think local town centres are vital and offer a valuable service. We are naturally sociable beings so contact and feeling valued is important for our mental health. Bricks and mortar retail offer something that a keyboard and mouse can’t.
We are not just a shop, we are a community gathering space (pre Covid) where long time customers and friends meet often accidentally and chat and cry or even have their waters break or just get some advice if we can.
Ultimately if we do our job right ,they will leave, beaming, with the perfect gift for a loved one.
I think you’re right about that! What’s next for Bliss Gifts as we head into 2021?
As to what’s next, we will feel much better once we know where we are with Brexit and this pesky virus. I just need to carry on evolving the business and expanding our product range in to even more eco conscious and British brands.
I’m not a great planner but being able to adapt and thrive during even the toughest of challenges will hopefully mean our followers and loyal customers will continue to support us.
That sounds like a plan to me! Thank you so much for joining me!
If you would like to check out Bliss Gifts for yourself, you can find their website here.