Megan Bromley runs the retail and online beauty store Beauty Full Time on Marlborough High St. She lives in Devizes with her husband Patrick.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Eastcott near Devizes, and went to Lavington School. For a while I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do – I did A levels, then studied Beauty Therapy. I worked in several jobs, and after nagging the owner of Beauty Full Time for a job eventually got one there. It was only part time at first so I did it alongside other work, and carried on when I decided I would go to University after all.
After I graduated, I was considering getting a job in London as many of my friends were there, but fortuitously the owner of Beauty Full Time decided that she wanted to take a step back from work, and asked if I would be interested in taking over. I wasn’t sure, but my mum and dad sat me down and talked me into it – they could see that it would provide a good focus and something that I could build for myself. I’m so glad they did as it really put me on the right track. That was in 2014.
How did you learn the business side of things?
Once I agreed to take over the business, I spent a few months working alongside the owner learning the ropes of the business, especially what went into the buying side of things. My parents were also extremely helpful, my dad has had his own business as long as I can remember so could give me a lot of general advice. It was quite daunting, but also exciting.
What was your plan when you took over?
When I took over my initial objective was to ensure that the business continued successfully. Over time I introduced additional marketing initiatives such as an email newsletter, social media and a loyalty card which helped build the business. I always had plans for a website, but that was not my first priority.
How would you describe the business?
We are a beauty store providing primarily make-up, skin care and fragrances. What sets us apart are two things; firstly, most of our products are discounted, and secondly, we provide help and advice on a practical level – such as foundation matching, lip colours, skin care routines, make-up lessons and so on. (We are limited in the hands on aspect of this at the moment because of COVID). All the permanent staff here have beauty qualifications, as well as experience.
Do you have a typical customer?
I would say not, our customers range in age from girls as young as 11, who might come in with their mums, right up to women about 75. (We also get male customers too of course). What they all have in common is an interest in beauty. Often, they will need some help and advice, and it is a real pleasure to be able to steer someone in the right direction when it comes to the products that suit them. Our customers get to know us and trust our recommendations which is fantastic. My ethos is to ensure a customer goes home happy – I don’t care how much they spend – I know if they get the right advice, they will come back. We like to build relationships.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love all of it – I enjoy buying, choosing things I know customers will like, and discovering new brands. But my absolute favourite thing is being in the shop talking to customers – I miss it so much!
COVID-19 has been a nightmare for retail – how has it affected you?
It has been a major challenge that’s for sure. Even though we could see it coming, when lockdown came last March it was a major shock to the business. I had already decided to close the shop on the Monday that the lockdown was announced in the evening. I didn’t want my customers or staff to be at risk. It was scary, as at first I had no idea how we would be able to continue or what support would be available. I admit I was initially very down – the thought of everything I had worked so hard for being wrecked by something out of my control was very depressing, especially as 2019 had been great.
Luckily, we had been working on the website for the business (My husband Patrick had been helping me build it as it’s an area that he has a lot of experience in). I’m a perfectionist and had been putting off going live with it, but now it seemed we didn’t have a choice. I spent two weeks photographing and writing descriptions of products and loading them on the website working from 8am to 11 pm every day. I then put the word out on social media that we were offering free local delivery, which worked well.
I had to furlough my staff, so I brought all my stock home and fulfilled orders from there. Every time I got an order I was really excited. I became a regular customer at Devizes Post Office, and also did a lot of local deliveries myself. When we got to a certain level of orders we were able to set up a Royal Mail collection service. That was a whole new process I needed to get my head around!
I moved the parcel collection to the shop when we were allowed to reopen, it was a challenge to set it up in there as its not got a lot of spare space, but I managed. My team Jasmine and Danielle learnt the process for sending off parcels and we ran the online business alongside the retail shop until the end of October, when the next lockdown was announced.
This was another blow, as November is a huge month for retail, and I’d bought a lot of stock in. As we were allowed to do Click and Collect, I immediately got my dad over (thanks Mart!) to convert one of the windows into a Click and Collect hatch, with a doorbell so that customers could easily pick up their orders. Luckily, demand online was good and we ran Click and Collect, and posting off parcels from the shop. Black Friday was amazing – we had sacks and sacks of parcels to send off via Royal mail. We were allowed to reopen again in December, and we worked like mad up to Christmas. It was all a bit of a blur.
How has the business fared through the pandemic?
With the addition of the online offering I was happy that we’d managed to do OK to the end of October compared with the previous year. I’ve been too scared to look at the numbers through November/December, but I think we will be OK. It has been incredibly hard work, and I couldn’t have done it without Patrick’s help, he has been amazing. January is always a quiet month where we regroup, so we are coping with this lockdown so far. Happily, we are still getting orders through online and keeping our heads above water. I can’t wait until we get back to some semblance of normality though – it’ll be a fantastic day when we don’t have to wear face masks anymore!
What do you think the secret of your success is?
Having a great customer base that continued to support us was amazing. The launch of the website was a game changer, and Social Media was a fantastic tool for communicating directly with customers, not just locally. It’s great for giving customers confidence in the business, and linking directly to the online shop. We’ve all worked really hard – there aren’t enough hours in the day!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Before Coronavirus – I loved to eat out, that was our Saturday night thing, as was having people round to ours. I loved to go clubbing when we could. We enjoyed our holidays – we would go to Celtic Manor in Wales a couple of times a year (it’s where we got engaged), and also travel abroad when we could. I like going shopping, and loved going on shopping trips to Bath or Bristol with my mum. That’s all gone out the window for now, as I’ve not wanted to have to self-isolate or get sick, so have limited all those activities.
The one thing I still do is my regular Zumba class (on Zoom now). I really love to dance – I’m always the first person on the dance floor at parties. At our wedding we did a specially choreographed first dance which no one knew about until we did it at the reception. That was amazing!
I don’t really have any spare time at the moment – it’s work all the way, it’s a good job I enjoy it so much!
Beauty Full Time is at 36 High Street, Marlborough, SN8 1LW (currently operating Click and Collect), or www.beautyfulltime.co.uk or on Instagram at @beautyfulltimemarlborough