Q&A: Nicky Felix, founder of online retailer Box2

Nicky Felix is the founder and owner of Box2, which began as a retail store in Brighton back in 1980. In 2000, she identified a gap in the market for clothing in larger sizes and now runs a successful online fashion and accessories shop. Retail Systems speaks to Felix about her e-commerce experiences and how small retailers can use the online channel to boost their business.

Why did you initially decide to take Box2 online, and then subsequently decide to make it an online-only retailer?

As Box 2 began to flourish, within two years I had relocated and expanded my business into a larger store. By this time I was purchasing products mainly from Germany and Holland, but it was after seeing the demand for bigger sizes – and being a tall size 16 myself – that I can proudly say we now offer up to size 34. It was after recognising the increased demand for plus-sized clothing that we decided to create a database of clientele, and through this we were able to further advertise and promote ourselves. We developed our original idea of a simple postcard system into a mail order system, which we continued until 2004, at which point we had 20 franchise stores all over the UK. However, it was the failure of these which encouraged us to pursue an online presence. In order to remain current and increase our marketing opportunities, the decision to become a purely online store has significantly increased our sales, our website traffic and the publicity surrounding the popularity of our online brand. Being online-only, our interactive presence allows customers a personalised shopping experience, online delivery, and the ability to view products available, as well promotions and new releases, with ease.

What advice would you give to small or startup retailers embarking on their first e-commerce journey?

Whilst I began my business with a bricks and mortar approach, which has given me valuable experience of interacting with the public and a better understanding of our target audiences, establishing an online presence has significantly contributed to our business success. It has helped us broaden our brand, provide a solid foundation for a new online business, and promote ourselves with ease in a convenient and time-saving manner across a digital platform.

How crucial is it to get the technology right, and what are the risks of failing to do so?

The increased accessibility and reliability of technology means it is critical for any business to ensure they are up-to-date with modern technology. Having witnessed a significant increase in orders being placed on mobile devices – whether iPhones, laptops or iPads – it is vital that a website is accessible from all devices. E-commerce offers a wider online platform and a twenty-four seven service which targets consumers outside of normal working hours, allowing for consistent website traffic every day, alongside being easily able to manage product availability, sales and expenditure. Technology further serves a vital role in being able to manage, view and calculate the vital reports necessary in order to keep track of your business.

How do you think online retailers can better connect to their customers, and ensure they have a personalised and seamless shopping experience?

I firmly believe that online retailers should connect with their customers on a personal level through the site, and offering a personal service, whether by phone or e-mail, allows more direct communication with customers on an individual level. The presentation and clarity of how products are displayed is incredibly significant to visually entice buyers, alongside providing a clear, coherent and easily accessible website for individuals to interact with. Offering email alerts and advertising for new offers, discounts and promotional products further encourages sales and website traffic, and allows customers to receive updates with ease and efficiency.

The retail landscape has changed considerably over the past few decades – do you see the future of retail as mobile, online, physical stores or a mixture of all three?

As we do not have a physical store presence on the High Street, it is vital to offer an interactive, online service to make up for it. Being easily accessible is essential to reaching your target clientele, and I believe e-commerce will give any business an instant advantage. The retail sector has seen a significant increase in competition, and e-commerce gives businesses the ability to keep up with a demand which I believe physical stores are unable to meet as effectively.

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