After having children themselves, Louise Tanguay and her husband Matt Anderson set up The Sleep Store in 2006 to help tired parents of newborn babies.
We sit down with Tanguay who shares her secrets and tips on how to run a slow and steady, successful retail business.
What prompted you to start The Sleep Store?
I started in corporate management roles but after having my second child I saw that it wasn’t compatible to be going into town every day. I wanted to be self-employed.
Looking at what I could do, I started to head into e-commerce, hoping to sell solutions for parents with newborn babies who find it difficult to sleep. I also saw it was possible to work from home.
Read more: How-To Retail: Episode 9 – The Sleep Store.
In terms of figuring out what business I wanted to run, my experience as a mother with two babies lead me to find a market niche – a retail business to help babies sleep.
Altogether the process took about four to five months over a Summer after my husband and I talked about it.
Is it risky to base a retail business on a niche?
I think you’re more likely to be successful when you identify something unique and that there is a market audience for it. A lot of people start up a business with different things around what is trending, making it harder to stand out.
What was the most difficult part of starting a retail business?
One difficult thing about starting The Sleep Store was definitely sourcing products. From day one we were sourcing our products from overseas which helped us become that one-stop shop for sleep products.
With the internet, it is now easier to source products offshore with places such as Alibaba. But that means there’s a lot of sh***y items out there.
There are a lot of retailers who need to pay more attention to what they are importing. When we import products, if there is no New Zealand standard, we try and meet EU or US standards. We’ve all got a big part to play.
In your view, how has the retail industry changed over the years?
The biggest thing now since being a retailer since 2006 is that e-commerce is the driving force of retail now and the pandemic has reinforced that.
Things have changed from opening a shop in the main street to being successful now. Anybody setting up a retail business, from day one should set up an e-commerce side.
People need to be protecting themselves with e-commerce. It will never fail you – with changing foot traffic – you can continue trading.
Social media has also become a thing and has become such an important part of business that has been quite a driver for retail. With social media you can interact and engage with customers who are the drivers for retail.
At The Sleep Store we use Facebook where we can ask customers their opinion and they can ask questions before they place orders. For us, it brings us in really close contact with our customers, we have rich discussions, we have more contact than brick and mortar shops and it has helped us make a lot of business decisions based on those conversations.
Has social media changed your business?
With social media you are always one review away from receiving bad reviews, but hopefully it leads to better customer service. Any feedback we get here at The Sleep Store we respond to.
What are some tips you have for people who are considering starting a retail business?
A retail business should have strong values, making the decision making simple and easy.
A lot of what we do here at The Sleep Store is based on those values. If you have strong values that you spend time identifying, then those big investments and decisions will be straight forward.
Another tip is to choose really good staff who have the skills you don’t have. Always hire the best staff you can find to make up for the places you are lacking. Start with what you are prepared to lose and take that risk.