Stratford dog boutique reopens with new improvements
The tails of Stratford’s dogs are wagging again as a dog boutique in the town centre has reopened after lockdown with new improvements for its customers and their canine companions.
Sniff and Bark, run by husband and wife Steve and Alison Halford, sells all sorts of accessories and items for dogs such as coats, beds and leads.
The shop has focussed its range of products for its local customers, and has enhanced the layout of the shop to make it more appealing.
And with dog ownership on the rise during lockdown, Steve is hopeful a new set of customers will start to come through the doors.
He said: “We only moved to our premises on Chapel Street in February, and even in that short amount of time we knew Stratford was going to work well for us.
“Many dog owners in Stratford have smaller breeds of dogs - such as French Bulldogs, Dachshunds and Cockapoos - that they love almost as much as children.
“Footfall was always strong from locals and tourists alike, but when business started to dry up because of fears around coronavirus in March, we took the decision to close the store.
“Once the lockdown was enforced, we had to think hard about how we were going to ensure the business could survive.”
A grant given to the business by Stratford District Council gave Steve and Alison the time they needed to reassess their store and make improvements.
Steve said: “We knew we had to change a few things, but spending money on improvements when nothing was coming in would have been a big risk.
“The grant just gave us the extra safety net we needed to really think about our business going forward and how we could improve it.”
The shop now has new display fixtures to make better use of the space, enabling its customers to more easily socially-distance while also displaying its products in a more attractive way.
And after talking to some of their suppliers, Sniff and Bark are using technology such as iPads to allow customers to browse much more than what they see in store.
For example, instead of choosing from a limited range of beds in the shop, customers can now browse a much wider range of beds through the iPad, choose the model they like, and have it delivered to their door.
Additionally, more specialist products are now sold by the shop, such as specially-designed coats for the ‘sausage’ shape of Dachshunds, and smaller beds with firm but soft sides for French Bulldogs.
“We decided to focus on products that we know local people love to buy for their dogs,” Steve added.
“We felt if we could really focus on getting the right products in for them, rather than for tourists who won’t be coming back to Stratford in force for a while, we’d do a lot better coming out of lockdown.
“Since reopening, our customers are slowly getting the confidence to come back into store, and we’ve also got new customers who decided to get a dog for the first time during lockdown.
“We’re confident we can get back to where we were – we’ve already started ordering Santa and elf outfits for Christmas.”
Businesses are now being supported by Stratford District Council to promote the safe reopening of the High Streets in response to Covid-19 through the Government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The project has received £116,036 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding