The pair is working alongside the other businesses in Seymour Arcade where the shop is located to freshen it up, and other new tenants are planning to move in.
“It has a Melbourne laneway feel,” Abby enthuses. “My main goal is for customers to feel special, relaxed, chilled, happy and want to come back. It's all about the vibe.”
She concedes the renovations took work: “The shop had been a butchery for 30 years. The previous owners were really great and let us renovate before the property sale settled, which gave us a good start. We did everything ourselves apart from the electrics and replacing the windows. We spent a lot of money on skip bins.”
The shop has been operating from its new location, which is triple the size of its previous premises, for only a few weeks. She has plans to host workshops in rooms in the second storey on topics such as taking care of houseplants and personal styling. “We’ll invite experts to share their knowledge to help us build relationships with new and existing customers. We also plan to offer the space for corporate meetings.”
There’s enough room for a designer or artist to work from the shop. Abby will also be able to hold pop-up shops and feature local businesses that complement This Little House.
While the COVID-19 period has prompted challenges, she says: “It wasn't the end of the world. We were prepared for the first three years of being in business to be quite difficult. But sales have exceeded our expectations.”
This period has also been a good opportunity for the pair to develop the online side of the business, adding new products and revamping the website.
“We closed in April for a month because it felt wrong to be open. We used this period to get our website up and running. That in itself is a full-time job. With so much more space, we’ve now got much more room to package online sales.”
The couple generate sales through Instagram marketing, showcasing the beautiful new shop and all the gorgeous products in it. Abby herself also personally delivers local parcels, helping to cement relationships with the community.
Their growth plans were forged at the start of the year, when they started talking to CommBank’s small business specialist at their local branch about lending solutions. They found the new shop and exchanged contracts before the pandemic, then had to carefully consider the best way forward when lockdowns started.
Abby has also been able to revamp online sales and develop new products.Credit: Supplied.
“The CommBank team was great, constantly communicating and reassuring me everything would be OK,” Abby says.
With the business lending support from CommBank, the couple can now focus on continuing to develop the business. Since re-opening, sales have rivalled the Christmas period, an outstanding achievement considering the challenging circumstances.
CommBank group executive Mike Vacy-Lyle says businesses like This Little House are a “fundamental part of local communities”.
“This is an example of entrepreneurs who embarked on a substantial change to their business that has paid off, not only for them, but also for the local community,” Vacy-Lyle says.
“Rather than put the move to bigger premises on hold, the homewares retailer This Little House sought our support to help fund their dreams for expansion. We’re so pleased to be able to help Abby and Brett with their business expansion.”
CommBank offers a range of lending solutions. From business loans to car and equipment finance, CommBank can help your business move forward with lending that works for you. Visit commbank.com.au/businesslending for more information.