Emsworth boutique owner from Karen George turns web star with Facebook, Instagram and TikTok accounts in bid to save business
BOUTIQUE owner Karen Hall says lockdown forced her out of her comfort zone – making her up her digital game, brush up her social media skills and earning her a solid online following.
Now the passionate businesswoman wants to thank all her customers who kept the ladies wear shop in business throughout a turbulent summer.
Karen, from Hill Head, runs Karen George Boutique, in High Street, Emsworth. The 49-year-old took over the shop in 2016.
She said: ‘Like many, it really was touch and go as to whether we would survive.
‘Unfortunately, not being an essential business, we had to close our door. We took advantage of the government grant, furloughed staff members and worked very hard to generate online sales.
‘We had a website but it wasn’t particularly active, more just a presence on the web for people to be able to find us.
‘We spent a great deal of time taking images and loading products onto the website – I even modelled them myself and did silly dances which I posted on the Facebook page to prompt some interest.
‘Many customers have since told me how I kept them entertained and loved it.’
As well as refreshing her website, Karen set up social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok, and she has been writing blogs and creating videos, searching for ways to keep in touch with her customers and keep her business alive.
She said: ‘It was a really tough time. People just weren’t going anywhere or spending any money.’
All her summer stock had to be put in a drastic 50 per cent of sale, just so she could raise enough money to stay afloat and get in the next season’s clothes.
However Karen said she is not letting Covid-19 stop her from living her dream of running a boutique.
She said that fashion is her calling and that loves working in the shop.
She originally trained as a secretary but ended up running an accountancy firm – selling that practice after 20 years. She also ran a shop in Bishop’s Waltham with her business partner, opening a further shop in Chichester, which have now closed as she focuses on Emsworth.
She said: ‘We merged the accountancy practice just at the same time as my mum passed away so I took some time out to consider what I wanted to do. I really enjoyed the shop, buying stock, meeting suppliers and then the satisfaction of people liking your choices and buying them.
‘One of my suppliers told me about the shop becoming available for rent as the previous tenant was retiring, and I simply couldn’t resist. The idea of doing this by myself, on a much smaller scale in such a pretty town as Emsworth was perfect. And so here we are – in our fourth year. We have come a long way and know I made the right decision.’
Karen’s husband Ian, a postman, carried on working throughout lockdown. Karen’s son George, 14, who the shop is named after, was also at home.
Now Karen is looking forward to things returning to normal.
Karen said: ‘At last it is starting to pick up now and we are excited about our new stock. I want to thank everybody for supporting us.’