Spotlight on: Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia
Industry newcomer finds success in Nova Scotia party scene
In an era of big box stores, pop-up Halloween shops and online-only retail, creating a new party store seems like a daunting task. But it’s a task that many have successfully overcome.
Take Ashley Butler, for instance. She owned a retail chain that sold a few party and wedding supplies for almost five years, but it wasn’t enough — Lower Sackville wanted more.
“Party supplies, wedding merchandise and rentals were becoming very popular,” Butler, owner and manager, said. “In the area where we lived, there wasn’t a party store anywhere, so we decided to try our luck.”
And immediate it was. After spending two months building the store, the first customer arrived at 11 a.m. on opening day.
“I had a good feeling about it,” Butler said. “In January we already had our first wedding of 2014 booked and we have brides in every day finding out who we are.” As of Feb. 11, Butler said the store had six weddings booked, two of which came in that week.
Like every great adventure, obstacles were conquered. Butler has been in retail for almost seven years, has a degree in business and is licensed in Wedding and Event Planning. But she makes it clear that none of that matters without customer service.
“The one thing that makes any retail succeed is amazing customer service,” she said. “This isn’t just a retail trick — customers will come because they know they get treated the way the are supposed to. At my store, my employees always make sure the customer is walking out with what they wanted, and maybe a little extra, too.”
The 2,500-square-foot store is jam-packed with party products. Butler said it looks small from the street, but customers are surprised by the size when they walk inside. The walls are coated in “eye-popping” colors — bright pinks, greens, yellows and oranges. The wedding section is colored light pink so the various displays stand out among the rest.
“Our store might seem tiny, but we have so much to offer in such a small space,” Butler said.
That’s an understatement. At The Ultimate Party & Event store the possibilities are endless.
“We have 20-plus party themes, more than 300 balloons, wedding supplies, rentals, costume rentals, napkin imprinting, onsite ordering, onsite wedding and event planning and a photographer,” Butler said. “When we opened, we didn’t want to just be any type of party store. We wanted to be different and be known as a ‘one stop party shop.’”
And it appears that Butler got her wish.
“Working in a field I love, having a successful business and getting compliments almost every day on the store from our supplies or even our customers, makes every day worth the sweat and tears you put in to owning your own business,” she said.
People from all corners of Nova Scotia are visiting The Ultimate Party and Event Store and leaving with a smile — and a handful of must-have party supplies.
The Keys to Success
When the store opened in May, it housed a bubble machine, fog machine and a white wedding arch. Today, the store has more than 289 different wedding and party rentals.
“Every couple of weeks we try to add new rentals to our list, that way we can constantly keep up with new demand,” Butler said. The store has had more than 75 wedding and party rentals since opening. Rentals are in high demand, but they aren’t the only things keeping The Ultimate Party and Event Store in business. Balloons and party themes are bringing in profits, too.
“We sell balloons every single day,” Butler said. “May to August is our busiest time, and during it we sell the most wedding, birthday and bachelorette balloons.”
At the store, latex balloons are displayed in packages on the walls, singles are placed in a standing rack and the Mylar’s are displayed in a magazine-style book. Arches and balloon bouquets are displayed in the windows and strategically placed throughout the space.
When it comes to party products, Butler said Monster High, Ninja Turtles and Thomas the Tank Engine are top-sellers in her market. Some themes are so popular that the store struggles to keep them in stock.
“Every year there is a new licensed party theme, television show, movie or even celebrity,” Butler said. “Deciding what licensed themes to bring in, discount and clear out is hard to pin-point.”
Communication is key, especially with customers. The store’s website does just that.
“I find that we get a lot of feedback from our website,” Butler said. “It allows customers to privately message us with questions, is allows us to communicate with our customers about sales, new stock, weddings we have decorated and more. It took two months before we opened to get our website ready, and now we are getting ready to make it into an online store."
Aside from creating an online shop, Butler has big plans for the future.
“I plan to expand our store into a larger space, that way we can have a larger wedding rental showroom and have space for more party supplies” she said. “I also plan to open up a second location. We plan to eventually have an email club where our customers can get monthly emails on sales, coupons and in-store photos of what’s been going on. The ultimate goal is to make the customers happy. ”
But none of this would be possible without the staff.
“The first obstacle that affects most small businesses is finding the right employees to work for you,” Butler said. “The girls I have working for me are amazing. I trust them and I feel completely comfortable leaving for a couple days and knowing everything will get taken care of. It’s amazing how well a business can run with an amazing staff.”
Whether it be the location, product line, wedding rentals or staff, Butler and The Ultimate Party and Event Store have the winning ingredients that led them on a continued road of success.
By Courtney Culey
Digital Engagement Editor