Since 2008, Sue has been bringing her love of France back to Australia with her impressively curated homeware store, French Affair. Specializing in linen tablecloths and unique French giftware, French Affair has been a roaring success online and in-person. With the help of Oliver POS, French Affair has succeeded in selling both online, and in pop-up shops and markets.
Sue McGary, the entrepreneur running the show, has shared some insight into her thriving business.
French Affair is based in Australia and sells tablecloths and homewares. Imagine a little corner of France with traditional tablecloths from Provence as well as stunning French linen custom-made tablecloths. I started the business as a part-time passion and it’s now my full-time obsession. I sell online and at pop-up shops and special events in Sydney.
They both started at the same time. It all began in 2008 with a basic website and I also had a stall at markets on weekends. Going full-time two years ago meant I could say goodbye to early morning starts and the unpredictable weather of outdoor markets. I now run pop-up shops in shopping centres every few weeks. The website is constantly evolving and last year, I migrated to WooCommerce.
As the business grew, I was on the lookout for ways to be more efficient. Recording pop-up shop sales and updating website inventory after each shop day was time-consuming and not always accurate. When I took on a sales assistant to help in the pop-up shop, it was even more obvious that my clunky manual system needed an upgrade.
Honestly? I had no idea where to start. I asked for suggestions in WooCommerce support groups and far too many hours were eaten up by the Google monster. I came up with twelve possible providers and Oliver POS was one of them.
Have I mentioned my spreadsheet? I love spreadsheets.
There were so many options, I didn’t want to be seduced by a shiny website and slick sales talk, only to find the software didn’t do what I needed. Spreadsheet to the rescue.
I listed a range of features under the headings: General, Inventory Management, Reports, Hardware, Payments and Support. Each heading had about eight or nine items to consider. I marked which features were critical and which would be nice to have but not a deal-breaker.
It was then a simple matter of putting ticks or crosses in each of the boxes to see which option was best for French Affair.
The Oliver POS column was full of ticks!
A lot of the other providers fell over at the first hurdle. They couldn’t handle variable products. Tablecloths are my main product category with different fabric choices and lots of sizes for each design. Oliver POS manages this seamlessly. Big tick!
The other area where Oliver POS stood out was managing refunds, returns and exchanges. We go over and above with our customers to make sure they’re happy. At the pop-up shop, we encourage customers to buy the tablecloth, take it home and if they’re not over-the-moon delighted, they can bring it back for a full refund. For any reason. It could be the wrong size, doesn’t match the curtains or the cat doesn’t like it. Any reason at all. So we have higher than usual returns and exchanges – and much happier customers! Some other POS options couldn’t handle this easily.
As a bonus, the Oliver POS interface looked great and was easy to use.
The cost was a consideration but not the deciding factor. Other providers were anywhere up to $720 per year and even at that price, they were missing many of my must-have features. Amazingly, Oliver gave me everything I wanted in the free version. As the business grows, I can upgrade to the paid plans to give me even more features.
French Affair has been using Oliver POS in the pop-up shop since the beginning of the year and I love it. We run Oliver POS on a mini laptop with pocket Wi-Fi. I was worried the reduced Wi-Fi signal in some shopping centres would cause problems. But even when I exceeded my Wi-Fi data allowance and it switched to slow down speed, Oliver POS kept working perfectly.
My sales assistant often had trouble balancing at the end of the day. With Oliver POS, sales are recorded more accurately as we’re not relying on manual systems. Closing the pop-up shop is now much quicker and stress-free. I can also log in at any time during the day to see how the day’s trading is going.
My favourite part is that sales are synched between WooCommerce and the shop. This stops someone from buying something online that has just sold out at the pop-up shop. It automatically updates inventory which is one less manual task I need to do at the end of a busy trading day. Reporting is also much easier – just press print and it’s done.
Sydney has been in lockdown for the past three months. No pop-up shops mean a huge chunk of my business is gone but luckily online sales are very healthy. However, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work ON rather than IN my business.
When we had a few months of lockdown last year, rather than curling up on the couch, I studied digital marketing and upgraded my website to WooCommerce. Google Ads is now a big revenue driver for the business, so I’m pleased I had the time to put that in place.
This lockdown, I’m focusing on SEO. I can already see it will have a huge long-term impact on the business. Although I am looking forward to being allowed outside my front door again.
I’m working towards a full-time staff member to run the pop-up shop. This means the shop could operate every week of the year and free me up to build the business. Increasing online sales is also a priority.
Yes! The Oliver POS support team is amazing!
With some support services, you feel you’re talking into a void. Hello Facebook .. Hey Random Plug-In… Is anyone there? If you do get a reply, it’s a cut-and-paste response that doesn’t answer your question.
The onboarding for Oliver POS was great. I loved that I could do a Zoom call with a real person to go over questions specific to my situation. Samantha is now my dedicated “go-to” support person. She understands my business and if I need help for any reason, she’s quick to respond. And I know she hates the cold… I do too.
Here’s an example of why I rave about the level of support. When I first started with Oliver POS, I found the reports were missing something important for my business. I mentioned this to Samantha. She got the tech gurus onto it and they added the feature just for me. How awesome is that! Did I mention I’m on the free plan? I can’t wait to see what the support will be like on the paid plans. Perhaps I’ll be invited over for dinner. Which would be great… as long as it’s in summer because Samantha and I don’t like the cold!
To learn more about Sue and French Affair, visit her online store. Or, shop her selection of stunning French tablecloths.
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