Roisin from F.R. Cathcart Ltd is a special person I helped way back set up their now booming eCommerce website, and have massively progressed since then and I hope will continue to do so! The F.R. Cathcart Ltd business started 40 years ago as a brick and mortar store in Northern Ireland and they supply everything from home and garden to hardware and building supplies. The store mainly sold building supplies until the credit crunch occurred, so as a family business they decided to diversify what they offered and delved into more a of a lifestyle store.
Some thoughts from the interview
“I am in the business about 5 years and we were set up as a timber importer, we progressed on to hardware, building supplies and general “stuff”. Things were going really well as were most builder suppliers but then the well-advertised credit crunch occurred so we as a family business had a look around and identified a need to diversify our offering. So we got into the lifestyle side of the market, we now have a garden centre, a coffee shop, a big gift ware range and we focus a lot on paint and home décor and have a few aspirational paint brands.”
“We started to look at our typical customer and our typical customer ended up being a lot like me. I have 2 young children, I work full time and my husband works full time and we don’t have a lot of time to go shop. We made this realisation and the topic of website of things had come up.”
“A long time ago my husband had a brochure site made and it worked at the time.”
“As time went on we identified the need for an online shop presence and looking at me as a typical customer I don’t have time to go shop for lifestyle stuff.”
“We got an eCommerce site built that didn’t work particularly well and then we got involved with yourself and we are here now.”
“We have a big bricks and mortar business and we find that our customers are so much more educated than they were even 5 years ago when I came into the business. If somebody wants to come buy a barbecue for example they know exactly what the features are and what they want, they know that the model that we have on the floor is the biggest in the range and they want the smallest in the range. The internet is great for that; it generates sales in the shop as well.”
“If I do want something and I know someone in the town has it, what I will so is I will go research it. Typical family thing, Richard and I both have iPads we sit on opposite ends of the sofa iPad each in hand, he’s looking up whatever he is looking at and I am looking shoes, handbags etc, so that I have seen the full range and I know that Joe Blogs up the town does it. I will walk in the next day or I will phone them and say I have seen this on your website and I want it so I only have to call into a shop for a few minutes to pick up the item and pay for it.”
“The one that works best for us is eBay, which surprised us we didn’t anticipate that. Amazon is fantastic if you have the right product at the right price and you hit the illusive buy it now box and you can do big, big volume on Amazon that way.”
“With the likes of eBay and Amazon it is a ready-made platform which has a huge amount of people going to it. We didn’t at the start of eCommerce journey before even you got involved we had a very mediocre eCommerce site but we didn’t have anything on any other platforms. As soon as we put something on to the platforms we instantly saw sales from it.”
“The platforms are brilliant in that respect, if you can sell something at the right price there is no reason you can’t sell on Amazon or eBay.”
“We got ourselves in a little bit of trouble with Amazon and eBay at the start as we have a big retail offering and a lot of footfall coming through so what we were find that although we have a fully integrated EPOS system stuff would sell in the shop and then we would maybe hit the buy it now on Amazon and we had no stock to fulfil it. So we were cancelling orders and getting into trouble with Amazon and I think at one stage we got kicked off Amazon because we weren’t fulfilling.”
“What is great about Amazon and bay is that they are there for the customer and they are such a secure way of buying things, it is all about customer care with them.”
“We realised very quickly, with your help, that we need to integrate our online offering with our bricks and mortar offering. We looked around at various different options and taking into consideration with our own website we weren’t very happy with it at the time we decided that if we wanted this to work online we needed to make this jump to integrate with online.”
“Now we have an all singing all dancing system that means if something sells of the shop the stock level online will be adjusted so that the instances of us selling out of things is now not a problem.”
“I think that is one of the scariest things for small family businesses. We are used to buying for our shop and he demand that is in our shop. We might buy 5 hammers or 5 hose reels but you could sell 50 in a day and it’s a whole different buying concept as well and it just having the confidence to say I know this works and having the stock there or it just is worthwhile. It’s all about bulk online, it’s all about getting out as many products to as many people as possible.”
“It’s a completely different business model. It’s not easy. I think a lot of people have this perception that oh, they’re selling online let’s sell online. It isn’t easy, it’s labour intensive, your margins are less than what you would get in you shop but if you do and do it right it’s rewarding. It is a long term strategy it’s not something that is going to work within a year. We still have our own niggles.”
“I think the first thing is you need to decide are you going to do this or are you not. If you have the right product, a lot of what we do is research. I have one fella that sits and researches all day to see if a product is competitive and there is a lot of resources online to help you with this. The first thing you need to know is if you are competitive online which is easy to check.”
“You need to have the conversation with yourself whether you are going to concentrate on the marketplaces or whether you need your own website or whether you need all together.”
“People think it is simple; if you hit it right yes, it can be very rewarding but it is labour intensive. We have 2 working full time and another working part time and we are looking to grow that over the next year. It is not an instant thing.”
“I think some people fall into the pitfalls or the hidden costs of selling on eBay or Amazon, it’s your PayPal fee, your Amazon fee, your eBay fee those are things we have a spreadsheet that we go off and it’s a very easy design but we start with the selling price. For example, if we got a hammer and we have researched the hammer and it is selling or £5 online we can work it back to see what cost price, say we wanted a 20% margin on that hammer taking in all the other considerations what cost price do we need to buy that for. If we are miles off, we either talk to the supplier or decide that maybe it is not going to work for us online. That is one thing that people don’t consider is that there are additional costs in eBay and Amazon and that is maybe why we want to push our own site going forward.”
“As time goes on, as your Google ranking improves those cost reduce over time (on your website)”
Best Advice: “If it’s not on there, it’s not going to sell.”
What do they offer?
A massive collection of lifestyle, home and garden products to make your home and environment look and feel just how you like it. To suit your garden and outdoor needs F.R. Cathcart Ltd supplies BBQ, Garden furniture, plant seeds & hose accessories etc. The home décor department flourishes with paint, brushes & rollers and varnishes. Second to none is the Hardware department with gate fittings, silicone, padlocks and chains, wires and sleevings.
How to contact F.R. Cathcart Ltd!
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