Indie Retailer Month – Braw Wee Emporium
Next up in our Independent Retailer Month series, meet Jennifer McGlone, the owner of one of our newest stockists, Braw Wee Emporium in Glasgow.
Hey Jennifer! Tell us a little about Braw Wee Emporium. Is there a story or concept behind your shop, and how long has it been open?
Braw Wee Emporium first opened our doors back in November 2014 as a side project to my arts consultancy business that was based right in the middle of the Glasgow institution, the Barras Market. The market at the time was in real decline as people had changed their shopping habits to online or getting their bargains in big supermarkets, and as more of the stalls emptied then less people shopped in the area. I felt guilty that I had a prominent space that wasn’t helping bring customers to the market, so after doing a wee Facebook poll to see if any of my pals would be interested if I set up a music and gift shop, and they were so the doors opened four weeks later for weekends only.
The concept behind Braw Wee initially was to provide customers with high quality Scottish products encouraging them to come back and shop at the Barras, while providing a platform for Scottish companies, designers, artists and musicians to sell their work. Initially we promoted it by doing loads of market stalls, music festivals etc, and I quickly realised that there was so much more potential to it than just at weekends. So we developed our online shop and slowly increased the number of days we were open, before we went full-time in November 2018 when we moved into our new bigger premises within a new creative hub called Creative East End.
We now host a range of creative workshops delivered by both our own and visiting tutors, and we’ve also invested in equipment that allows us to make products with our own designs. This also enables us to collaborate with our designers so they can test out new products and designs without large overheads.
Another big part of our ethos is that we’re really passionate about helping the public understand their role in keeping our towns, cities and neighbours vibrant and unique. By spending money locally and in small independent shops, people are choosing the type of community they want to live in by helping the businesses to keep their doors open. No matter how pretty a shop looks, without customers buying products, businesses can’t sustain themselves.
What kind of products do you sell?
We called ourselves an Emporium because we have a really wide range of products in the shop including vinyl records, Iron Brew soap and lip balms, greetings cards, coffee, jewellery, mugs, our own handmade bottle lamps, cushions, cheese-making kits and a lot more! Our ranges are always expanding or changing as we discover new things, or our suppliers develop new products.
Why should people visit your shop? Do you have a typical customer?
We have a lot of fun in the shop, and there’s a lot of humour in our products. We also work with so many fantastic suppliers to get a good mix of things in for customers. We have a very small team of dedicated staff, who are as passionate about what we are trying to achieve as I am – so they are always up for a blether too. I feel that we are really showing that Scotland’s offering is really contemporary, fun and high quality – and that it isn’t all tartan and shortbread themed.
I really love the fact that our customer demographic is really wide; we have tourists, local residents, ex-pats, local workers coming in – the age range is also really wide from young folk to our oldest customer (as far as we know) Betty, who is in her late eighties and wears her Gie’s a Winch necklace with pride [Scottish for ‘Give me a kiss’]!
What do you look for when selecting products or brands to sell in your shop?
We often have real difficulty choosing products for Braw Wee, mainly because there are so many amazing Scottish companies producing fantastic products. For us, the key things are originality, a Scottish origin (based here or created by a Scottish owner) and quality. We are looking for products that will stand out from the crowd and our customers know they are getting something special.
We are keen to work with brands who know where their supply chains are, and try to shop as local as possible when sourcing materials – although we understand this isn’t always possible. The most important thing is brands that are on board with our collaborative approach and will help support us to support them!
How did you discover our brand, and what do you like about Donna Wilson’s products?
We discovered Donna’s products through Instagram originally, when a friend shared a post, and we instantly loved the range of products and colourful quirky designs. Then when the Donna Wilson team got in touch because we had mutual friends, it was a no-brainer to finally get some products in! We really love the fun nature of the designs and so do our customers.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as an independent retailer?
Our biggest challenge is the unpredictability of sales and cashflow! We do our best to plan and build contingencies, but being based in Glasgow the weather is always a challenge – if the rain is too heavy everyone hides indoors, but if the sun is shining everyone is in the park! We are also right next to Glasgow Green which hosts some big events, which unfortunately also drives footfall away from the area due to the way the events are staged – it’s a shame because there is a real opportunity for collaborating with local businesses.
However, these challenges have also provided us with the push to diversify our offering and were partly why we started our workshops, which has seen over 500 participants in the past two years! We’re also already gearing up for a busy autumn winter season, and excited to see what Christmas 2019 at Braw Wee Emporium brings!
July is Independent Retailer Month, a campaign that runs each year highlighting the important role that smaller, local, independent retailers play in the communities they serve, the local economy they contribute to, and in the retail sector as a whole.