Happy New Year | Welcome to 2017



H-A-P-P-Y   N-E-W   Y-E-A-R   E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E !!!


I have been so ready for this to come for nearly the whole of 2016. It's finally here. What I adore about Hogmanay and New Year is the feeling of intention, wiping the slate clean and that with the turn of the clock hands you can do anything. People are friendlier at this time. Everyone tries to help their fellow human out more and you know, it feels really damn awesome to see this happening.

So as the clock strikes into the first day of your clean slate, what do you plan to do with this opportunity? Make amends? Try something new and exciting or just try to be more organised?

Making this change isn't a resolution. Even those who make no resolutions are somewhat making a resolution to not change. Starting afresh is never a bad thing and if you don't want to overwhelm yourself with things you 'must' do then why not just try to think more positively or to see each day as a new start? These are all achievable and you won't be left feeling like you need to beat yourself up if you 'fail' because there simply is no failure with these changes.


2017 is going to be a big one full of changes for me. But, I will start the year ready to take on whatever finds itself in my path. I feel strong. I feel confident and I am ready! Connor also has a lot of changes but he typically takes each day as it comes anyway so as a team - we can do this. And, we also resolved to travel. Ideally Hungry as my grandad was Hungarian and I weirdly have never been there. It's one of my bucket list must do's. I also plan to start driving lessons - at thirty-two, nearly thirty-three I don't feel daunted about it. Gutted I left it so late but then you're never too late to start anything that will benefit you in the long run, are you?

So from both Connor and myself, we wish each and every one of you a happy New Year. Sending love, hugs, hope and happiness to you all for 2017.

Alternative Christmas Gifts to Beat The Post Strike

Christmas is twelve days away lovelies - twelve - days - away! 

If you still feel like you haven't got it together for the festive season, rest assured you're not the only one feeling that way right now *puts up hands* also with the impending Royal Mail strike next week, ordering gifts and expecting them to arrive (even amazon Prime is taking ages to arrive now) then you may be left short. 

So, the one solution I found to this problem was to order online and have the item directly sent to the recipient (or yourself if you will see your loved one before Christmas) that way you can ensure quick delivery or direct delivery. Most florists use couriers which should bypass the whole Royal Mail escapade that's about to hit us next week. 

Now don't get me wrong, I love a soft jumper, some shiny shoes and the luxuries of the festive periods but, I don't think you can beat flowers, chocolates and plants. The zanier the better. Especially if your loved one has that sort of personality. I also particularly adore festive styled flowers such as the ones below from www.flowersforeveryone.com.au
If you stay in Australia then you can check these out over on the Flowers For Everyone Website and I recommend you do as some of their gorgeous flowers are more than gift worthy. They even have zany Willy Wonka Roses! These are like tie dye roses guys, they have tie dye type pastel ones too - you just can't get those here. 
However, if your giftee isn't into flowers and prefers foodie type gifts why not mix the two? A bouquet of chocolates anyone? Or why not gift a Sweet Pineapple plant? I mean it's a pineapple plant. What's not to love about it. Note also that they have varied packaging colours for their chocolate bouquets. I love the festive reds and golds, but you know some people may prefer a more neutral palette of black and gold or even pastels (also available on the website). 

There is also the option of sending nappy cakes to new parents or plants. Take for example the gorgeous seasonal poinsettia plant. I adore these plants as they go with all interiors, don't give off horrible smells, don't stain your house with pollen and are a dream to keep alive. 

If you don't stay in Australia, why not take inspiration from these and also seek out some suitable flower or alternative bouquet gifts that can be sent directly to your loved ones this Christmas? 

Which of the flowers or alternative gifts would you have loved to receive this year? 

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Festive Partywear || Take One Pair of Silver Heels


It's nearly Christmas, oh my goodness I am so excited. Holidays, glitter, food, alcohol, and the festive party season. What's not exciting about all of that?

Since I was young I have loved wearing dresses and heels. Sometimes I would get dressed up just to stay in the house but I rarely get to dress up these days so, having a reason to get dressed up in pretty clothes and shoes and to then let my hair down excites me more than it really should. Like a lot more than it should but it's the season of prettiness and glitter and food, and family so I'm not all that worried.

Recently, I have been having a look online at clothes and shoes and trying to pick something to wear between now and New Year and it's been tough. Typically I struggle to find things to purchase as my size fluctuates between an eight and a twelve. Currently, I'm more of a 10-12 but at 5ft 1 with the shortest legs in the world finding something that fits my hips and my short legs isn't an easy feat.

Footwear tends to be easier purchase although I do have wide feet ''sometimes'' so knowing what is going to fit or what needs to be sized up also isn't easy because most stores don't offer half sizes or varying widths. I know this isn't something that only I fight with, ladies it's a real pain in our butts huh!

So what do you do? My resolve for tricky style choices is to start with the footwear. Spend a little bit more on the these if you have to because like my dad says 'you can't replace your feet but you can replace your clothes' He was such a wise man. After you have sorted out what you are wearing on your feet,  work your way up. Good shoes can make the outfit and make you feel so confident. If you are too shy to wear pattern or colour in your outfit, why not do it via your footwear?

I really love a bit of colour in my footwear and I saw these beauties on the Simply Be website, you can check these out in their Partywear section and thought 'ah-ha' metallic silver, non-fussy and very sophisticated. These heels will go with everything! They will give me the height needed to lengthen my legs and make my chosen outfit flow.


I don't need to worry about the sizing because these come in various widths. This means I  don't have to size up or down due to the width being too tight or narrow. The widths currently available in this style are an E up to EEE. Also, the ankle strap takes pressure of the ball of the foot and the simple design means these can be worn with trousers, skirts or dresses seamlessly.

If you are not a fan of metallic tones they also come in black. I personally love the silver metallic, though - maybe I was a magpie in a previous life, who knows. If you team these with a gorgeous festive glitter nail polish or  vibrant glossy red you'll be ready to go.

At £25 why not steal both of the colours for any upcoming parties too? So what would I team these Sole Diva Platforms with? Here are a few of my favourite picks to inspire you guys...


One option was to team the heels with this AX Paris dress which looks like a gorgeous black v-neck top and feminine flouncy skirt. I adore this shape because it suits all body types. If you're curvy the floaty skirt will skim and accentuate. If you are straight up and down, team this with a skinny black belt to accentuate the a-line in the skirt and to give the impression of curves. Sizing also is from a 12 to a 32 so ladies, no need to worry about squeezing into a size that is too small. I've heard from others who have this exact dress that it's a comfortable but true to size dress. 

I love that they have teamed the dress with tights and booties and it's certainly an option if you want to stay warm. However, teaming the dress with the heels and a simple silver toned accessory will really make this outfit stand out further. I would recommend the rectangle cubic zirconia and sterling silver bracelet due to that gorgeous teal tone which mirrors the colour in the skirt. 


Swoon! 

This dress is everything. I really love the colour, the fabric and the shape. This is by Simply Be and comes in sizes 12 to 26. I don't have much boobage, however, the wrap style of this dress ensures that my hips and bum will be streamlined rather than squished and my chest area is covered securely (I hate when tops and dresses gape due to my lack of boobs. 

Unlike the image, I wouldn't team this gorgeous princess dress with those black shoes. They feel a bit too heavy for the delicate pink velvet material. Instead, the silver heels would be my option along with a simple earring like the silver droplets pictured. 


This one is a little bit more extravagant looking I think compared to the other two. This is by Frock and Frill and is the Zeta Dress. It's great for any ladies that dislike showing their arms or want something more subdued and modest. Sizes for this are 10 to 26 and again this is another style that lends itself to most body shapes.

You can see they have the same shoes pictured but in the black colour. Again I really would team this with either colour. The black blends into the overall looks but the silver would really enable the beading and detailing to pop don't you think?

My favourite out of these three looks is by far the pink velvet dress by Simply Be. I seriously adore this and think it's the winning option for me personally. I know I will also get plenty of wear per cost throughout the festive season, into New Year and even into the first quarter of 2017. Oh my gosh, I can't believe how close it is to 2017 already!

Which of the three options would you have chosen and why?

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How Switching to E-cigarettes Can Lengthen Your Life


Quitting smoking quite literally adds years to your life. Around half of all lifelong smokers will die prematurely, losing on average about 10 years of life. This doesn’t mean that it’s too late to quit, however. It is a common misconception that after many years as a smoker there’s ‘no point’ in quitting, because, actually, every cigarette smoked reduces the smoker’s life by an estimated 11 minutes. So if an average smoker - smoking 11 cigarettes a day - stopped smoking then they would save 30 days of their life a year. It is never too late or too unachievable, particularly now that we have a more effective form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT): e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes work by heating up a liquid to produce a vapour, which is then smoked by the user. The idea is that, over time, e-cigarettes should completely replace the smoking of tobacco cigarettes. If you continuously reduce your intake of nicotine then you can even wean yourself off of e-cigarettes and be nicotine free. It’s important not to take too big a step or too little a one when making the switch, for the former could result in a bad relapse and the latter will not lead to much progress. The liquid comes in various strengths of nicotine ranging from 0-24mg to help you regulate your intake and create viable goals. On top of this, there are a variety of e-liquid flavours which add a lot of fun to the process and eliminate the smell of smoke; these include custard, apple strudel and cornflakes.

E-cigarettes are a relatively new technology so, the long-term effects of smoking them (vaping) cannot be known. Public Health England said that they are not risk-free, but are estimated to be 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. They have also said that if every smoker switched to e-cigarettes, the amount of people dying from smoking would be reduced to 4,000 a year. These figures are estimates, but estimates contrived by the best experts on the subject in the world. The vapour from e-cigarettes contains nicotine, propylene glycol and/or glycerin, and flavourings, whereas tobacco smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, at least 43 of which are carcinogenic. The most prominent toxins in cigarette smoke are tar and carbon monoxide, which, respectively, damage our lungs and reduce the oxygen travelling throughout the bloodstream. E-cigarettes don’t contain either of these. Which one would you rather be inhaling?

In the UK, smoking is the primary cause of preventable illness and premature death, being responsible for around 96,000 deaths a year. It costs our NHS approximately £2 billion a year and the average 20-a-day smoker £3000 a year. The reasons to quit just keep piling up. Remember, every cigarette damages your health. Switching even every other cigarette to an e-cigarette will have dramatically positive effects on your health and is a step in the right direction to quitting altogether. 


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Wellbeing || Winter Vs Summer Beauty Tips

Hey, guys! A quick update - I've been away from the computer for a little while as everything has changed for me recently. Some things have been for the worst and some for the good - I will cover this in a separate post. 

However, one change that's happened recently to all of us on this side of the pond is winter! where did this icy-cold come from? It's so cold right now I have my mittens packed for work, I have casseroles planned for dinners and I am sure we'll see snow within the next few weeks in the lead, up to Christmas. I'm not going to complain all that much though because it's only temporary (she says as she lives in Scotland, I really should be a comedian). 

So, with the cold comes the new winter wardrobe and a new beauty routine. And, likewise to those over in Australia you'll be changing to a new summer wardrobe and beauty routine. Regardless of where you are staying right now here are some tips to get you through the changing seasons on both sides of the globe. 




Winter 

Skincare - The cold weather really leaves your skin feeling dry and parched. When the icy mornings hit you know it's time to bulk up your skincare routine with the addition of hydrating and moisturising products. Yes, that also means adding additional moisture even if you have combination or oily skin. Start with a base layer of skin friendly oils. Then, add your daytime moisturiser. I can't recommend Olay enough - their range covers all skin issues and types. 

Treatments - Winter face masks are the best. Mashed banana with honey, avocado and oats, egg white and honey, oats and banana or even an oat and clay mask. They all help to slough away the dead skin cells that give us a rough and dry appearance while adding moisture to soothe. If you don't want to make your own at home Lush Cosmetics make some excellent fresh face masks. Try to add a face mask into your routine every fortnight if you can, to really see the difference. 

Makeup - In the winter most people tend to dampen down the brighter tones for more autumnal ones. I really love Autumn and Winter makeup looks as they are so reminiscence of the feminine fifties makeup. A warm-toned lipstick, some smoky eyeshadow and a slick of liner and mascara. With the cold pinched cheeks that come from going outside you can't fail to look good. If you dislike a heavy lip look Burt's Bees make some really pretty berry toned lip tints that would work equally as well. 




Summer 

Skincare - In the summer our skins tend to become hotter and stickier as we sweat and move about more. It's still important that we hydrate the skin by adding moisture or our bodies will create more sebum to compensate for the loss. Unlike the colder seasons you can adapt your skincare routine so that you are simply adding some beneficial oils to the skin and under eye area. Serums are good also as an additional hydration layer under makeup.

Treatments - Face masks that contain natural antibacterial properties are great for this time of year. Try a fruity face mask to really decongest any clogged pores on the face. If you suffer from dry skin try to add some avocado and lemon juice to your mask but only use this in the evening as the lemon will contraindicate with the sun. 

Makeup - Summertime makeup tends to be lighter, more balmy and colourful. You simply cannot beat a good tinted balm, a bright nail polish and a swipe of a good, waterproof mascara at this time of year. 

And finally, If you are on the other side of the world, and you are struggling with heat in your workplace or home I recommend getting commercial air conditioning repairs by New Edge to keep you cool and calm this Summer. 

Whether you prefer summer or winter, try to enjoy each season as it only lasts for a few months. You don't need to go wild with a whole new beauty wardrobe - simply adding a few key pieces into your old routine should be enough to make you feel really good about the changing seasons and yourself. And, the best tip I can give you for all seasons is to stay hydrated, de-stressed and positive. 


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Health & Fun || 10 Reasons to Play Online Bingo


As a mum, I rarely partake in exciting days out alone without my children. Gone are the days of getting glammed up to head out with the girls, or getting glammed up period to leave the house or to go on a date night. So, what's a mum to do for some fun? Apart from starting a new Netflix box set, grabbing a vino and some lush chocolates, I tend to play online bingo. Yep, that's right. I play bingo and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  

If you speak to most mums (of all ages) you'll find many do play online games. Some without a monetary benefit, some with. Bingo is one of those ones that gets the adrenaline going as you see your card fill up, and if you win it's even better. Like any parent out there, the financial game from playing is an added benefit, especially at this time of year. 

Believe it or not, bingo games also have additional benefits outside of gaming. Here are just some of the benefits that you should consider.

Fun and entertainment at your fingertips. At anytime you want, day or night. 
Online games are the perfect game for all married, partnered or parents out there. Married life and being a parent is great but a little distraction and 'you time' while still being indoors can enlighten your mood. Help you to destress and will give you back a sense of self. 
Researchers have even shown that playing online bingo can boost your memory power and also energise you. 
Playing online games wisely can help you save money. Yes, you can win money but most of the online games cost pennies to play and if you are spending pennies, you're not out buying loads of alcohol, taxi's, new clothes and accessories and food. At the end of the night, you could be saving a heap of money which means, no hangover and a happy purse the next day. 
If you have a with shy personality, making new friends gets a lot easier with online gaming. Online sites have various chat rooms where you meet new people and make new friends and share your joys and life events with each other. 
Winning - no further explanation required with this one. 
It improves your cognitive strength. 
Slows down the ageing process - apparently. Of course, don't hold me to that, but happiness does definitely make you more youthful and reduces nasty built up hormones. 
Keeps you healthier and happy. 
The auto daub feature on online bingo makes the game more relaxed making you feel at comfort with playing. This way you don't have to worry about missing out on a win by incorrect daubing.  

So what do you need to know about online bingo? 

Online bingo sites have various bingo and non-bingo games to play such as slots, scratch cards, pull lever games and casinos games that you can choose from. The different bingo rooms are fun and exciting as well as you can live chat throughout the games with other people in the UK. Each bingo room has its own unique feature and monetary amount that you can win. Out of all the bingo rooms - 90 ball, 80 ball or 75 ball etc - the 90 ball bingo room is the most common and loved bingo room and is always live with other players. This definitely adds to the excitement and I've always found that the other players are friendly. So much so they always congratulate the winners and it seems genuine. 
  
The rewards obviously add onto the fun and will make the experience even more exciting. By depositing a little sum of money you can gain 'lefty' bingo bonuses like free money, free spins and real money prices. Sometimes it benefits you to add a small token of money because this amount is matched or doubled. Therefore you are getting to play with free money to test out the games before spending any of your added pennies. 

So while you are killing it online playing, you can be working on your health. See, maybe you don't need to sweat it out at the gym after all. If you don't want to play online, you can improve your health in other ways. Check out my previous post which covers 'The essential guide to health

Just ensure you set yourself a limit and enjoy the fun. Do you enjoy bingo online or offline? Do you have any tips for new players? 


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Look Gorgeous, and be a Blushing Bride For All The Right Reasons!

On your wedding day, you want to look beautiful and be blushing for all the right reasons. Not because you’re feeling embarrassed or self-conscious about what you look like! There are so many things to think about when you’re preparing for a wedding, but don’t neglect yourself as a result. When you walk down the aisle, you want to be feeling your very best. Here are some of the things you could think about in the run-up to the big day to ensure you do.

Lose Weight/ Tone Up

A large proportion of brides-to-be choose to lose weight before their wedding day. If you cringe at the idea of pictures catching you at a bad angle or feeling uncomfortable, then your size or shape is worth thinking about. If you know you want to shed some weight before your big day, the key is to start early. Healthy weight loss is just one to two pounds a week, and so if you plan on losing quite a bit, then it will take time to do it properly. Avoid crash diets which could lead to a cycle of yo-yo dieting, and could even result in you putting on weight. Start a healthy plan which is a great way to enter into married life, and ideal if you intend to start a family shortly after the wedding too. Even if you don’t want or need to lose any weight, you could consider toning up. Since most wedding dresses show your arms and back, these could be the areas to work on if you’re self-conscious.

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Take Care of any Awkward or Embarrassing Issues

In this post I spoke about some of the common embarrassing health problems many of us deal with, and how to go about getting them sorted. On the run up to your big day, aim to have all of these things addressed, so it’s not something you’re worrying about or dwelling on on your wedding day. For example, if you suffer from excess sweating and are worried that it will ruin your wedding makeup or dress, a simple course of botox can fix the problem. If you’re concerned about acne, you could visit your GP or a dermatologist. If you’ve always been self-conscious of your facial hair, a wax treatment or laser hair removal can give you your confidence back. Another issue you might come across is your period may fall on the day of your wedding. This can leave brides feeling a little on edge, particularly in a white wedding dress. To solve this problem you could consider norethisterone for period delay. It’s completely safe and will give you full peace of mind.

Pamper Yourself

Work out a great haircare and skincare routine which suits you, and stick to it. These will keep you in tip top condition and allow you to feel your very best on your wedding day. It’s fun experimenting with products, but once you find what works for you try not to chop and change too much. Especially too close to the day itself. You don’t want to be putting any new products on your face, body or scalp a few weeks before the wedding just in case you have an allergic reaction. It might be a rare occurrence, but you don’t want to take the risk. The last thing you need is to be battling dandruff or scalp issues, or having to cover flaky or inflamed skin on one of the most special days of your life. Proceed with caution when it comes to any beauty products or treatment close to your wedding day.

Experiment With Makeup

A good makeup artist will know what shades and looks will suit your colourings and bone structure. But it doesn’t hurt for you to know too. That way when you’re looking at wedding makeup for inspiration, you will know what is likely to look good on you. You could buy an eyeshadow palette and see how different shades look on your skin tone- Youtube has tonnes of tutorials. You could test out different colours and finishes of lipsticks to give you the best idea of how you want to look on the day. You can also rule out looks that you really don’t like. For example, pink blush might look gorgeous on photos of wedding models but on you makes your complexion look ruddy and flushed.


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Got An Embarrassing Body Problem? Why It Pays To Be Brave


None of us want to be faced with embarrassing body problems. However, often, we have no control over our health. If you’ve got health issues that you find embarrassing, don’t suffer in silence. However tempting it is to bury your head in the sand, it often pays to be brave. Here are some common embarrassing body problems, and some solutions that may help.

Smelly feet

Do you dread taking your shoes off in public? Do you feel self-conscious about the smell of your feet? Do you avoid gym changing rooms or activities that involve being barefoot? If so, it’s time to do something about it. Having smelly feet is a common problem, and often, there is a simple cure. Odor can be a sign of hormone imbalance or excessive sweating. However, most commonly, it is linked to wearing the same shoes all the time and poor hygiene. Try and wash your feet regularly, and wear socks with your shoes. Stick to high-quality materials. Cheap shoes tend to make your feet sweat more. Use odor control insoles and spray your feet with deodorant. If these changes don’t make any difference, see your doctor.

Hair loss

We usually associate hair loss with men, but it can also affect women. In men, hair loss tends to occur as a result of aging and genetics. In women, it is often linked to hormonal changes in the body and stress. Sometimes, you lose hair, and it grows back. With male pattern baldness, the most common cause of hair loss in men, hair loss may be permanent. Some men are very comfortable with losing their hair, and they embrace their newfound baldness. For others, it can knock their confidence and make them feel old. If hair loss is a problem, there are remedies you can try. Seek advice from your doctor. One treatment that may help is Propecia. You can compare the price of propecia online. If you’re struggling with hair loss as a result of stress, there are multiple techniques that may help you to manage stress. Exercise, meditation, and creative activities may be effective.

Sweating

Sweating is a natural response to feeling hot. It’s the body’s way of cooling down. It’s normal to sweat when you’re in a hot country, or you come inside when it’s freezing outside. However, if you sweat more than normal, you may have hyperhidrosis. Usually, this affects the underarms, feet, and hands. There’s no physical pain involved, but excessive sweating can make life very difficult. You may feel self-conscious when you meet new people, or somebody tries to shake your hand, for example. You may be embarrassed about wearing certain items of clothing or worried about trying on shoes in a shop. Even simple things can become daunting. If you sweat a lot, try a stronger antiperspirant. You can get medicinal products if standard deodorants don’t work. You could also try taking medication from your doctor. Botox has also been approved as a treatment for hyperhidrosis.

Have you got an embarrassing body problem? If so, don’t suffer in silence. There are people out there who can help. You may think that your issues are the worst thing in the world. But bear in mind that your doctor has probably seen much worse.
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3 Important Things A Developing Business Should Outsource

If you’ve been running your small business for some time, then you’ve probably used all the modern tools at your disposal. The web is full of helpful workflow and process automation tools which can take a large chunk off of your workload as a CEO, but automation will only go so far. If you’re looking to free up a lot of your time and reduce some of your overhead, here are a few things you should consider outsourcing.


First of all, your bookkeeping. Right now, keeping track of all your business’s finances; how much you need to allocate for equipment, investments, taxes and so on, might seem like a breeze. It can stay nice and simple, but only if you want your venture to stay the same as it is right now indefinitely! As you expand and grow, there will be more and more financial factors which you’ll need to think about. Trying to juggle it all on top of your other duties can lead to costly mistakes, and eat into your productivity. You can prepare for the shift right now by looking around at bookkeeping services such as RS to take care of your back-office duties. You’ll get the experience of professional bookkeepers, and have more time to focus on the things that will keep your business moving forward.

Next, your web design. As I’m sure you’re aware, a company’s website is among the most powerful marketing tools they have in their arsenal. You may have a fairly decent site up at the minute. However, if you want to reach your full potential then 'decent' isn’t enough! Hire a web design service like CandidSky, and you’ll only have to sit back and wait. You’ll not only be able to save a huge amount of time but also know that you’re benefiting from a massive pool of expertise. Web design companies are always on top of the best practices, new or emerging technology, and all those nitty-gritty coding details that make your brain hurt when you read about them. Furthermore, if you find one that meshes nicely with your brand, it can be the start of a highly beneficial partnership. You’re going to have to review and tweak your website a lot in the future, so it’s good to have someone you can rely on.

Finally, your scheduling and administrative tasks. When you’re operating as a self-employed sole trader or a particularly small business, then you can probably do all your admin and diary keeping in your head. However, like the finances in your business, it can’t stay this simple forever. As a business owner, it’s your duty to ensure that you can focus on the processes at the core of your venture. This isn’t so easy when you’re constantly buried under a pile of admin and scheduling work! Hire a personal assistant in your local area, and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. By paying a fairly small salary, you’ll be able to wash your hands of sorting through emails, complex appointment-setting and various repetitive tasks.

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Fight For Your Success | How To Challenge Online Competition

The internet is fast pushing business away from small sellers. People seem to be more content to purchase online from the comfort of their own homes than to head to the shops. On the one hand, the internet is great for businesses. It means that your customers can easily find out your shop’s location, opening hours and phone number. They can make inquiries which can be answered quickly and customers can leave reviews of your products. However, the internet also poses a massive threat to businesses. The problem is that huge chains can offer lower prices. That’s how business works. They can buy in mass bulk amounts and consequently receive considerable discounts. They can then offer their goods at lower prices.

The huge chains compete against one another. Lowering prices again and again. The prices that they offer on mass produced items can’t be challenged by small businesses. After all, a local corner shop isn’t going to sell ten thousand packets of Walkers crisps and half a million bars of chocolate on a daily basis. It’s unfeasible, bulk buying isn’t possible on the same scale and thus prices have to remain higher than those offered by monopoly giants. They also don’t have to fork out for store rent, bills, visual merchandising or any of the other things that come hand in hand with a physical store. Often, customers will browse physical stores, see something that they like and then check up for a cheaper deal online. All within a few seconds. Chances are they were able to order the product that you’re offering from Amazon and it will be delivered to their door within a few hours.

So how do you compete?

Service

One thing that online shopping can’t offer is face-to-face service. So this is where your business really needs to excel. Good customer service is down to good staff. So what should you look for in a staff member?

Traits

Confidence. Confidence is important in sales and customer service. Your staff need to be confident in approaching customers, answering queries and suggesting alternatives.

Friendliness. People can tell if someone is innately friendly or putting on an act. You need people who are naturally friendly, as they will create a positive atmosphere in the workplace and positive feelings among their coworkers.

Flexibility. Everyone has a life, so don’t push too hard with this one. But you should prioritise staff who have more free time on their hands to pick up extra shifts during busy seasons and cover shifts if a colleague calls in sick.

Patience. Anyone who has worked in a physical store will know that you need the patience of a saint to deal with some customers’ requests and complaints. It’s paramount that your staff never lose their temper with a customer or show hostile feelings.

Proactive. You need proactive staff who show initiative. They can’t be following you around like a lost puppy constantly. Find someone who is comfortable finding tasks for themselves and staying occupied without having to be asked.

Empathy. Seeing through the eyes of the customer is invaluable. You need individuals who can detect how others are feeling and what they might be thinking. Whether that be cheering up customers who have had a tough day or talking with customers who are notably lonely.

How To Find Them

First of all, send out a job advertisement. Advertise in your store window or post a call for staff online through job sites and social media. Have individuals bring their CV's into store. It’s much easier to judge character in person than through reading a cleverly worded CV. Whittle the selection down to 20 potential employees at the most.

Hold a group interview. Some people may prosper in solo interviews but be utterly socially inept when it comes to dealing with others. A group interview will see how these individuals interact with strangers. At the end of the day, this is what you’ll be employing them to do. Set up tasks and activities. Your focus shouldn’t be on the result of the activities themselves. What you should look out for is the individual’s communication and articulation skills. Also watch their demeanour around others.

After this, choose your favourites and have solo interviews. This will be the potential staff member’s opportunity to really sell themselves. Ask them about their previous experience, how they’d cope in certain situations and why they’d like to work for you.

Training

You can have great staff, but without sufficient training, they won’t be much use on your shop floor. It’s absolutely necessary that you train your staff in all areas. Whatever a customer might need, your staff should be able to produce it. Train all staff in first aid. This could prove vital in emergency situations. Health and safety should also be taught. For example, courses on how to properly lift heavy objects, hazard awareness in the workplace and the importance of being clean on the job. Make sure that there is a strict fire protocol. Carry out routine drills to keep your staff at the top of their game.

Beyond basic health, safety and first aid, there are other things that your staff should be trained in before starting on the shop floor. This should include knowing how to deal with more difficult customers. All staff should know how to maintain their temper, when to pass a customer on to the store owner or manager and how to deal with complaints.

The Physical Store Space

If you have a beautiful, well presented store, people are likely to enjoy spending more time browsing and purchasing from you. They’re also likely to return. Customer loyalty is important. So how do you keep them coming back besides good service? Well, when you shop online, you click here and there, hope that what you see is what you’re going to get and check out. That’s that. When you shop in a physical store, you receive an experience. You interact with staff. You get to touch, feel and try out the merchandise. You can request different colours and sizes of products. You know exactly what you’re getting. This is where you’re going to win loyal customers.

Shop Front

Your store sign and window display are the things that get customers from the street and into your store looking at your goods. So how do you make your store more appealing than all of the others in the road? First, focus on your sign. Huge chains have simple signs, as they need to be fairly cheap and easy to reproduce hundreds or thousands of times. Take advantage of the fact that you only need to decorate the front of one store. Invest in it. You will want a sign that stands out from the rest. How do you do this? Look into professional sign writing. Laser light detailed designs can be intricate and complex. They’ll look much more impressive than standard signs that you see plastered all over the place. Also consider lighting. Pretty back-lighting will make your shop stand out at night. Even if it’s closed, an effective sign will make people look twice and they’re more likely to check in the next day or later down the line.

Your window display is equally important. Let’s start with the windows themselves. You can have designs etched into the windows themselves with lasers. This is particularly impressive and unique. If you want a cheaper alternative, you could have an arts student or a professional paint your windows with intricate, pretty designs. Make sure to change your window display regularly to keep it interesting. Showcase your best new products to keep customers streaming in.

Interior Design

Most stores look the same when you enter them. A few mannequins scattered about. A few items hung around. Maybe a few pieces of merchandise displayed on shelves or stands. This is expected because chain stores need to be consistent and uniform and the easiest way to do this is with minimal designs. Make yours complex, extravagant and excessive. Have highly decorated displays. Alternative lighting won’t go amiss. Vintage cashiers and check outs will draw attention and create conversation. Have your staff in a uniform that fits the look and aesthetic of your store.

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Refreshments

Offer customers refreshments as they enter the store. Many will decline, but the offer will be appreciated. Also have functioning toilets for customers. This will keep people in store for longer, rather than rushing off because they need to use the toilets or they are hungry and thirsty.

Alternatively, if you have a larger store space, have a small, independent barista hire a corner. They can set up a little work station and a few tables and chairs. Guests can stop by for tea or coffee and cake. Some people will enter your store solely for the purpose of picking up a coffee and might spot something that takes their fancy on their way out. This will build a broader customer base and make your store a hot spot for people who want a nice afternoon out.


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