E-Commerce: How it works in Retail Spotlight: Vanil, Scandinavian-Inspired Decor

09 November 2023 - Emma Clifton

Mandy Leeson is the owner of a unique home décor shop based in Woodbridge, Suffolk called Vanil. She sells a unique assortment of Scandinavian-inspired accessories and gifts from personal designers. Mandy says, “I feel passionate about championing partnerships with designers and artists who share my belief in ‘slow’ design, which is all about taking time to create designs you will cherish for a lifetime.”

Small businesses, such as Vanil have had to adapt and react to an ever-changing landscape over the last couple of years. Emma Clifton, Business Advisory Associate Partner, shares how Vanil became a client back in 2018, and how together Mandy and Emma have been working closely to face challenges that arise together.

The first was Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTD) and transitioning from a paper-based record system to an online accounting system. We supported Mandy in transitioning her accounting operations from Sage to Xero, which was a big change for the business. Moving to an online system meant that both Mandy and I were able to access the business information in real-time, look at the same information together and talk her through any changes required.

For peace of mind, Mandy engaged us to review her Xero data on a quarterly basis and to file the VAT Returns with HMRC. With cloud accounting software this was made so much easier and meant we could work on the data in the background, without any disruption for Mandy. Getting her returns right and filed with HMRC gave Mandy a sense of anxiety so supporting her with this process meant we could tick something off her to-do list!

We were also able to implement a monthly billing cycle to assist Mandy with her cash flow management. It is really important for new, small businesses to be able to understand the timing of payments and plan accordingly.

Then came Brexit! With Vanil’s main product base being Scandinavian, this was a real concern for Mandy. What would this mean for importing products? Would this lead to an increase in product and import costs? Would the business have to consider increasing their prices? Would there be an additional administrative burden?

After many sleepless nights and emails from suppliers about Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI number), Postponed VAT Accounting and Deferment Accounts, Mandy reached out to us to help work through the options. She felt like this was overly complicated for her small, local business and even considered “throwing in the towel.” She didn’t want to lose the identity of her business, but the implications of Brexit were making this very difficult for her to trade outside of the UK.

Our internal VAT and Brexit specialists at Scrutton Bland were able to support and advise Mandy on the best course of action for her business. Whilst there is still an additional administrative burden that falls on her, things have now settled down and enabled Mandy to concentrate on her business again.

It feels like we only just overcame that hurdle to then be faced with Covid! Like many other small businesses, this was going to be Mandy’s biggest challenge to date.

Being a local shop in Woodbridge with no online presence, Mandy’s income stream stopped overnight. She was forced to close her shop, which was devastating for Mandy as her business was her life. She has put her heart and soul into this business and feels passionately about the products she provides only for this to be taken away from her. I know a lot of business owners felt the same and had similar struggles and I have every sympathy for them.

When it became clear that Covid was going to be around for longer than anyone had originally thought, Mandy made the difficult decision to invest in a website. With a period of limited income, spending money was not high on the priority list, however, Mandy could see the benefit both now and in the future. Mandy will be the first to admit that this decision saved her business. Her website www.vanil.co.uk has been designed in such a way that her passion for craftsmanship and design comes across seamlessly.

Having got through the Covid period, Mandy has continued to invest in her website, and this has now become a steady income stream for her. She loves meeting people in her shop and connecting with them but having an online presence has also enabled her to expand from being a local shop in Suffolk to an online retailer with global outreach.

As many small business owners can appreciate, Mandy has many hats that she has to wear. As well as an employer, she has to consider marketing, purchasing, the day-to-day running of the shop, cash flow management and much more. Mandy’s time is therefore precious, and having a business advisor by her side throughout has meant that we have been able to support Mandy through any challenges that have arisen.

Whilst no one can predict the future, what’s certain is that new regulatory updates will be implemented and that new challenges will affect small businesses across the UK like Vanil, but having trusted advisers facing these alongside you can give you the peace of mind that you are supported. To reach out to Emma to discuss your small business, please call 0330 058 6559 or email hello@scruttonbland.co.uk



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