Online tuck shop offers a taste of yesteryear - Consumer

Campaign: Retrosweets launch
Client: Retrosweets.co.uk
PR team: In-house
Timescale: Ongoing from August 2005
Budget: Nil

In January, former web developer David Paton launched retrosweets.co.uk, an online confectionery shop specialising in goodies from yesteryear.

Having trawled Europe for two years to source old favourites such as cherry lips, sherbet lemons and Texan Bars, the 27-year-old wanted to attract customers to his wares.

OBJECTIVES

To build awareness of the shop among the over-20s, and turn a novelty concept into a profitable business. To position the Scottish-based operation as a sweet shop for adults, open 24/7. To highlight it as an emporium of products that consumers had assumed were discontinued.

STRATEGY AND PLAN

As an internet start-up, with very little by way of a marketing budget, retrosweets set about gaining as much free publicity as possible.

Initially, Paton sent press releases to local, regional and national newspapers, including The Sun, Glasgow Evening Times and Scottish Daily Record, complete with sweets.

Press releases were regionalised, outlining the sweets' relationship with certain areas. General releases for national press included details of some of the quirkier tuck-shop treats on offer, such as Wham Bars, Chelsea Whoppers, white mice and soor plooms.

Paton also used free online news distribution service PR Web, which is committed to helping SMEs increase their visibility. To build up word of mouth, he targeted online message boards that covered topics such as food, sport and local issues, posting links to retrosweets.co.uk where possible.

To highlight his shop's gift-box and 'wedding favours' service, Paton distributed samples to wedding organisers and venues for display purposes.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION

The story proved extremely popular with the media, attracting national coverage in The Sun, The Daily Star and The Times. Local and regional titles including Inverclyde Now, Scottish Food and Drink and the Largs & Millport Weekly News also featured the site, while the Glasgow Evening Times ran a profile of Paton and his venture in its Finance & Business section.

RESULTS

The business now handles around ten to 15 orders a day, ranging in price from £5-£50, with some bulk orders worth as much as £170.

Paton says he has noticed increases in regional sales that can be directly related to local media coverage, 'from a handful of orders (before coverage) to dozens of orders a day'. He adds that spikes in enquiries and purchases from certain regions, such as parts of the south coast, have led him to believe there are other publications, of which he is unaware, that ran articles on his shop.

Immediate plans include targeting wedding press and online expat communities, and the promotion of a 'World Cup sweetie box'. Glasgow Evening Times business writer Jonathan Rennie explains that his paper seeks to provide a platform for the proliferation of small businesses in the region.

'We like to look at the people behind the stories,' he says. 'Paton had ditched his day job, taken a hobby and created something that wasn't just a business, but his passion.

'It was also quite nice that he approached us directly, so he came across without too much spin.'

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