The Boux Avenue founder and Dragons Den star talks about how the growing lingerie chain is dealing with Brexit uncertainty and expanding internationally.
What have you been focusing at Boux Avenue?
The main focus has been about the uncertain economy we’re now in, making sure the business is fit for purpose and fit for 21st-century retail, and more importantly fit for the massive changes that we’re now having to tackle now on a weekly or even daily basis, which isn’t something we’ve had to deal with before.
What kind of things have you been doing to make sure the business can stand up to the uncertainty?
Technology has been a key part of that, retail has become a very technologically advanced business, so that’s something we’ve invested in heavily. We’ve launched a new website, and the way we take information and understand our customers has changed. Everybody wants to take everybody’s lunch and it’s very tough out there.
Stop moaning and get on with it – there are going to be bigger problems than Brexit
Is Brexit playing in those concerns about uncertainty?
We have to just get on with it – the vote has happened. We’ve got to get on with finding the best deal for the country. Yes, we can’t rush it, but at the same time, let’s not drag our heels. Let’s not talk ourselves down. I think the thing that’s irritated me more than anything else is listening to people moaning. Stop moaning and get on with it – there are going to be bigger problems than Brexit.
What have you got planned for Boux Avenue’s store portfolio?
The focus is very much on international expansion. We said we’d open 25 to 30 stores [this year] and we’ve got 29 now. There are a couple planned to open in the UK, although I can’t say where they are yet, but the rest are all international. We’re opening in the Czech Republic shortly, in Hungary and in Qatar. It’s about making sure our store portfolio is built up around the world and in the UK, but also making sure that Boux is represented in the big shopping centres and the big footfall drivers.
What are you doing differently with the new website and how will you drive online sales?
Believe it or not, 50% of our sales last year came from mobile devices, and this year its 75% from mobile devices. That’s an amazing statistic and it’s important we maintain the quality of the site across different devices. That’s a big focus for us.
Are there any particular challenges facing the lingerie market at the moment?
The lingerie is not different to any other part of the fashion market, it’s about making sure we’re giving customers what they want. Lingerie is such a personal item, so it’s all about maintaining the focus on the detail.
How are you approaching Black Friday and the Christmas season?
Black Friday is another one there’s not much point moaning about it, it’s here to stay. If our customer want little fill-up before Christmas or are starting to think about gifting on Black Friday, we’ll make sure we offer them something in store and online. Christmas, however, is marvellous. The rest of the year most retailers don’t make any money. If you don’t do it at Christmas, that’s your year gone.