01 Nov


Picture Dawn Rouse

It started small as many businesses do, with a single store called NIKKI’S The Gift Shop in Mackeurtan Avenue where Nikki Rossato intended indulging her passion for gifts and gift wrapping. “It’s something I’ve always loved,” she says. “Carefully selecting gifts and wrapping them are big childhood memories for me. I can clearly remember rolling up comics and slipping an Aero chocolate and a bouncy ball inside the tube then wrapping it all up like a Christmas cracker for my friends when I was in Grade 6. My mom took similar pleasure in gift wrapping, believing that presentation is everything, so it’s something I learnt from her.”

The one small store started from a dream in a notebook Nikki kept while living in Switzerland where she designed the logo and kept lists of items she’d stock one day. Those plans have developed into a business comprising of 10 stores spread between KZN and Gauteng, 26 female employees, and a myriad logistics ranging from stock distribution and replenishment to staffing. Running a string of shops hasn’t been all learning on the job, though, as Nikki’s background is in retail having worked in store management for Woolworths for five years which taught her about the operational side of things.

The business’s slogan is Gifts for all Occasions and Celebrations and Nikki notes that their niche is convenience gifting. “There needs to be something for everyone,” she says. “You should be able to pop in, find a gift and leave with it beautifully wrapped – all within budget.” The key to this is bringing in a variety of items from reliable suppliers that are bang on trend and beautifully displayed. “Calling the trend is fairly simple,” she says. “The trick is applying the trends to products we can consistently supply to all stores and getting them on shelf at the right time.”

As consistent supply of the right product and at the right price are constant twin frustrations, Nikki set about developing her own brand of products that are exclusive to NIKKI’S. These include ceramics, stationery items, bath and body products as well as the gift wrap and gift tags which are a signature feature of every NIKKI’S store.

Another signature is the tree that forms the centrepiece of each shop. “Our house was seriously damaged in the 1984 floods just after my parents had spent a fortune renovating, so we had a bit of a lean Christmas,” she says. “Instead of buying a tree, my Mom found a branch in the garden, painted it white and hung silver baubles from organza bows on the branches. It was simple but spectacular (especially for the 80s!).
I decided to recreate it in store one year and it was such a hit that we’ve included one in every shop.”

Nikki has an accomplished team of women by her side including COO, Janet de Villiers and master merchandiser and ops manager, Shelley Farrer. She’s very hands-on and the look and feel of the stores reflects her vision for whatever occasion or season they have been working on. Catering for several kinds of customer – those who have traditional taste, people who like trendy items and teens and tweens – is also a focus. “We aim to have something for everyone, including men who are notoriously tricky to buy for,” Nikki notes.

“Finding successful products is often about a fresh take on something that’s been popular and being brave enough to try something new. “For summer 2019/2020, we’re reinterpreting proteas from a pink bloom to something dark and dramatic and bringing in Strelitzias and rainbows.” Nikki and her team find inspiration everywhere and take great pleasure in attending to the details and considering what they would like to give and receive as gifts making shopping at NIKKI’S for any occasion a real treat. *



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