A proactive approach to doing business and a passion for helping others are strongly held principles of Lynn shop owner Andy Wilson, who was awarded one of the top accolades in the 2013 Mayor’s Awards for Business.
And his philosophy of building up community spirit is one of the reasons why he walked away with the prestigious Business Person of the Year Award at the presentations ceremony held in Lynn’s Corn Exchange.
Andy is passionate about the future of the town centre as a vibrant hub for trading and has just rubber-stamped his own commitment by extending the lease for a further ten years on Ikon Fashions, his designer clothing store which he set up in New Conduit Street 12 years ago.
He takes a strong interest in what is going on in and around the town, regularly attending the Town Centre Partnership meetings and sitting on the steering group for Lynn’s Business Improvement District (BID), which aims to promote all that the town has to offer.
“Through my involvement in BID, last year I visited nearly 250 businesses, many of which were independents, but some were national companies too, and I fed back their views to the steering group,” said Andy.
“While I was meeting people, I found myself helping some of them out by offering advice. Another positive point is that the council is listening to our feedback on issues, such as car parking, which was one of the main concerns of traders.”
He also believes that the council is on track with its improvement schemes such as the revamp of the Tuesday Market Place, a new look for Saturday Market Place and the introduction of pontoons on the quayside, which all serve to make the town attractive to visitors.
As far as the success of his own business is concerned, it’s the result of several key strategies. “We dare to be different with our branding. We have attracted big names, such as Joules and Jack and Jones. Later this year we are planning a to have a ‘shop-in-shop’ dedicated to Joules clothing. Also we do not discount heavily and I think that people trust our honest approach. We only hold sales in January and have one in the summer.
“We also hold promotions at Easter and in October, which is our birthday month so we like to celebrate.
“Customers often come in just for a chat and enjoy a social visit, which is all part of having a strong community spirit. Communication is important, so we always make time for customers and staff.
“I also believe it is very important to be commercially aware of what is going on in and around the town, and pride myself on keeping up to date with developments. I think it goes back to my training when I first joined the retail industry for a national company when I was 16!”
Investment is important, too, and he has installed CCTV and is about to upgrade his till system.
During the past 18 months he has seen online sales soar through his Amazon store, which now accounts for 30 per cent of his business. The driving force behind this huge achievement is his wife, Sarah, whom Andy describes as his “best support”. As well as heading up the e-commerce side of things, Sarah also takes care of admin and accounts.
“The online sales are very encouraging, but I am still totally committed to my shop and the town centre in the future,” he said.
Andy also showcases the work of upcoming entrepreneurs, and in the last 12 months has allowed space in his shop for a t-shirt designer and hand-made jewellery designer. There’s also an area dedicated to selling products in aid of the charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers.