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Butterfly Kisses, Glasgow

With a curving, timber wall based on a butterfly in flight, this eclectic lifestyle boutique flutters with activity

There are plenty of tales about people’s roundabout routes to careers in retail, but Glaswegian sisters Pamela and Gillian Cobb may have made one of the more usual moves.

“We used to run a petrol station,” laughs Gillian Cobb. “It may sound like an odd change of direction, but it meant we had plenty of business experience and I was taking a Masters degree in fashion marketing, so we felt like we knew what we were doing.”

The duo sold their petrol station in October 2007 with a view to taking a year out, but instead spotted a gap in the market for the kind of warm and cosy lifestyle boutique they wanted to run, which lured them back into the retail game quicker than they expected. “Within six months we had bought two buildings around the corner from where we sold the petrol business. We are renting one out with a view to expanding into it in the future,” explains Gillian Cobb.

The home of Butterfly Kisses used to be a health store, but little of the former dour decor remains. The Cobbs gave a friend of a friend starting out in architecture the opportunity to mastermind the design revamp.

“After we had come up with the Butterfly Kisses name we wanted a design that would reflect that. Architect Jonathan McQuillan suggested the giant timber wave wall which gives the feeling of a butterfly in flight weaving up and down in dips and curves.”

This eclectic direction suits the shop, which is surrounded by coffee houses, delicatessens and thrift stores. The hotchpotch mix of lacy lingerie adjacent to sherbet shades of wrapping paper and kids’ toys just a few feet away from women’s designer dresses creates the bric-a-brac feel the Cobbs were aiming for, inspired by clothing, gifts and homewares mini chain Oliver Bonas.

Butterfly Kisses’ mix-and-match attitude gives the snug 600sq ft store its charm, and the welcoming and homely feel is underlined by the rustic white-washed floorboards, kitsch wallpaper and cornflower blue velvet curtains leading into the changing rooms.

Womenswear brands stocked veer from what the sisters call ‘safe’ labels such as Noa Noa and Avoca Anthology, to more directional ranges exemplified by Danish brand Designers Remix Collection. Lingerie comes from Playful Promises and Hush, while kidswear, which makes up about 30% of the offer, includes the Knuckleheads brand.

The single-floor store officially opened at the start of November, just as the UK was heading into what is predicted to be the worst recession since the Second World War, so the sisters have set relatively conservative targets for their first year in business. Gillian Cobb says: “It is a tough time to be trading, but we are hitting our profit targets and are very happy with how things are going. Of course they could be better, but we have to be realistic.”

That realism doesn’t amount to pessimism however, as Butterfly Kisses aims to have its transactional website up by the summer.

Essentials

  • 600sq ft Size of Butterfly Kisses’ shop floor
  • 50% Proportion of turnover which is made up of womenswear brands
  • Four Number of months Butterfly Kisses has been open

Readers' comments (1)

  • Thierry Bayle

    For any new retailer who wishes to maximise the opportunities that exist in the stock, I would strongly recommend that you analyse your stock by product classification or product type ( dresses, tops, jeans, suits ...). You will start identifying trends and buying will be much easier and more accurate - we can forecast sales at over 90% accuracy over the next 12 months.
    I am conducting seminars on the art and science of buying at national trade shows but also in London Hammermsith. Several hundred retailers have attended and you will be sure to learn new things about your business.
    In a small boutique, look into analysing 8 to 15 classes.
    The second level of analysis will be by supplier/ brand.
    Also ensure to start taking measurements on your business ( you need to analyse discounts per class, profitability per class ) but also conversion rates ...
    If you cannot attend our seminar, call us and we will be happy to cover the main points over the phone ( 020 8576 6233).
    Today, you need to work smarter and grab every opportunity that exists around you.
    Remember
    "Learn to make numbers talk! They will reveal the future!"
    - John D. Rockefeller
    All the very best,
    Thierry Bayle - Management One

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