Before Ian Tarvit invested in his franchise (The Zip Yard Northampton), he had previously managed transport and warehouse operations for DHL but had always wanted to run his own business. In 2015 he decided to make the leap and set up an independent coffee shop with his business partner Michal Polak on Bedford High Street.
This joint enterprise was going well, so the pair started to consider taking on a second business and Graeme Mulheron, who is the franchisee of the Bedford store, was one of their regular coffee shop customers. Graham explained how The Zip Yard worked and how much he enjoyed his business and they decided to go for it. Ian lives in a village just outside Northampton, so it made sense for him to run the store - they opened in December 2016.
When asked what were the key factors he considered before investing in The Zip Yard Ian says:
“The most important thing was finding a good location and that’s exactly what we’ve got on St Giles Street in the town centre. You need footfall which you may struggle to get on a back street. It may cost more but it’s worth it in the long run. The one thing we had to do to meet planning regulations, due to the location, was to invert The Zip Yard logo so that it’s yellow on black – it’s the only one in the country.”
“On day one we had zero customers. Two and a half years on, our trade is split into 50% new customers and 50% existing customers, and we are still growing which is brilliant in just our third year.”
“Like many High Streets across the country, Northampton has had its problems with shops closing, including BHS and M&S, but the council has got some ambitious ideas to boost the shopping experience – redevelop the centre of the town to create a more relaxed shopping experience with alfresco dining, generating more footfall – so I’m hoping their plans come to fruition. One positive development has been the university’s move to a new campus in the town centre and we offer a 15% discount to students on what we call Student Tuesday. The store is also within walking distance of the hospital and we offer a 10% discount for NHS staff. We also offer dry cleaning via an external company which in turn adds value for our customers.”
Ian is rightly proud of his business, explaining that they stand out from the crowd and that their store, like all Zip Yards, is bright and clean. There are changing rooms and bridal suites, and customers can see the seamstresses working; they’re not hidden away in a room at the back or upstairs.
Ian now has four seamstresses and they are all excellent. “They all have a passion for the industry and my store manager also has experience in making professional blinds and working in the shop of a fabric warehouse.”
New customers come to Ian’s Zip Yard mainly through word of mouth – people who have spoken to someone whom his staff has done a good job for. He also uses Google advertising to ensure that they are the first business to be shown in a search and he posts regular updates on Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram. Ian encourages his customers to write positive reviews, however, Ian feels that one of his best marketing strategies was his little yellow Citroen C1 that he purchased and had completely vinyl wrapped with The Zip Yard branding. He leaves it in retail parks over the weekends and it is parked at the top of his drive, which is on a busy main road into Northampton. He has often had people knock on his door and ask about some work they need to be done. Ian finds that it is also a conversation piece when a new customer comes into the shop and says that they saw The Zip Yard car.
Jakob Pii, Point Franchise ©