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How I learned to keep my balance

Sarah Davidson takes stock of 2006 and vows to build on the successes she achieved during 2007

The past year was good for my shop. Turnover was up, overheads were kept in check and my profit targets were achieved. What has been crucial, I believe, is that the stock has been better than ever. I have toughened up and will no longer buy brands out of loyalty. If they do not perform on my sell-through spreadsheets, they will not get a look-in the following season.

In terms of my store, I have experienced sales staff and they all ensure that the high standards of customer service we are known for are maintained. At quiet times I never sit back and expect customers to walk through the door. Instead, we hold a calendar of events to tempt customers into the store, either in conjunction with other businesses or in aid of charity.

All that sounds good, but what comes next? If I have learnt anything from 2006 it has been the importance of creating a work-life balance, so I have decided against opening another store at the moment. Things are going well, so I have decided to enjoy that and create a solid foundation, rather than rush in and overstretch. The added overheads and staff problems would keep me awake at night.

I have also said no to producing a Jane Davidson own label. It is easy to kid yourself that you have a strong brand, but in my heart of hearts I know my strength is in editing from the runway collections, not as a fashion designer.

However, I am ambitious and always keen to take the shop further, so I have said yes to creating a transactional website. Consequently I am spending every spare moment searching the web for ideas and picking the brains of people I know who already have a transactional site.

Another big decision has been to recruit a manager for the store to free up some of my time. In order to keep the stock as fresh as I would like it to be, I have to buy all year, not just during the traditional buying seasons.

As my mum says, retail is not easy - if there was a crystal ball you could look into for the answers, everyone would be doing it. I promise to keep you informed as to how things pan out.

- Sarah Davidson is the owner of designer womenswear retailer Jane Davidson in Edinburgh.

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