Britannia Teas closing storefront, moving online - Owner says rising overhead costs prompted move

Daniel MacEachern
Published on February 2, 2013

Overhead costs are driving a downtown business owner to move her operation online.

Kelly Jones, owner of Britannia Teas on Water Street, said rising wages, rent and ferry problems have all contributed to her decision to close her storefront and turn the business, which sells teas and accessories, into an online delivery operation.

“For a small business, overhead costs are huge,” she said.

“You look at it,” she said. “You’re

paying rent, and your salaries — they’re your two hugest (costs) when you’re running a small business.”

Crunch of overhead costs problem for retailers

The store has been on Water Street for six years, but Jones said she knows rent will be going up, and as tough as a decision it was — “I cried a few tears,” she said — she decided moving to the Internet was her best option.

“It’s hard because you have a bit of an emotional attachment that big business doesn’t have in the same way that small businesses do,” she said. “You’re dedicated to your customers, and they are a big part of your life, and you really enjoy seeing them every day. And your staff is important to you in a different kind of way, as well. When you’re a small business, you tend to have staff that have been with you from the beginning.

Jones wondered how she’s supposed to keep a bricks-and-mortar store open when even giant corporations are having difficulty.

“Even this morning, on the radio, they were talking about Best Buy and Future Shop, and how they were closing stores, and they said that the reason they were closing their stores is because of overhead. So if big corporations like those guys are feeling the crunch of overhead, we’re doing the same thing.”

Parking has proven to be a problem, she said — but mainly in her customers’ perception of it; Jones says parking isn’t as scarce downtown as people believe it is.

“Everybody complains about how hard it is to park,” she said. “I’ve had customers who emailed me and said, ‘I drove around for 20 minutes and couldn’t find a spot to park so I went home out of it.’ … As much as people complain about the parking, I’ve worked here for six years. I’ve twice not found a parking spot. … There’s a lot more than people think there is.”

Having to lay off her three employees was hard, said Jones.

“Fortunately, I’m really lucky, because they are amazing. They are just really excellent and great and understanding,” she said. “They’re committed to the store, too. Not everybody can say that, I’m sure. They feel like they’re a part of this store, and they’ve even volunteered to come in and work for free, which is great, but is not fair to them, so I wouldn’t do that.”

Jones plans to announce soon when she’ll be shuttering the store and moving entirely online. And while she’s sad about closing the store, she said she’s excited about her Internet plans.

“We’ll be doing delivery of the tea, so we’ll take your order online. We’ve got to get that up and running,” she said, adding that she also plans to take part in more markets, such as Some Good Market in Makinsons.

“It’s exciting, and terrifying — it’s a lot of things,” she said. “But you’ve got to be sensible about what you’re doing. You’ve got to make a decision that’s to the benefit of the store, the benefit of the business, and to the benefit of yourself.”

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