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Store revamp was a snap decision

A stack of old photos provided the perfect inspiration for a makeover at Clare Hourigan's shop

After buying the lion's share of our autumn 07 collections back in January and February and then mentally filing them away, we started to think about the new collections again in early July.

Each new season is a great time to change our in-store environment. We can give it a boost, fire up the staff and stimulate our customers with a completely new look, so this time around we hunted for inspiration.

We wanted something that would inject glamour and create a sumptuous atmosphere in the store. Fashion is about keeping things fresh and providing new looks, and that's the feeling we wanted to create with our surroundings.

In the end, the spark of inspiration came from having a good old clear-out earlier in the year. While renovating his London flat my boss unearthed a bag of old Kodak slides that had been given by fashion journalist and author Andrew Tucker many moons ago.

The slides turned out to be photos of Paris couture shows from the 1980s and featured collections from the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Chanel and Claude Montana, modelled by the original supermodels Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista et al.

We have had eight of these slides blown up to more than 5ft high and have hung them in specially made frames in the windows. We are projecting the remaining 200-odd slides onto one of the shop's interior walls to provide customers with a constant slide show of high-octane fashion.

The most striking thing about these images and the clothes is that while they are very much of their time, they are also completely relevant today. They illustrate autumn 07's use of block colour and bright geometric prints perfectly. They are beautiful and utterly glamorous. It was even easy to dress our mannequins in similar outfits.

Our season's theme, window display and colour scheme just all fell into place. We have carried the colour all the way through the store: tissue paper, ribbons, flowers and even the towels in the customer loo are all in the same unifying shade of purple that highlights the collections in our slides, in our windows and on the rails. Our work has resulted in delighted reactions from staff and customers alike, all of whom have been very impressed.

It is important for our staff to love their place of work and think of it as they would their own home. If they take pride in their surroundings and pay attention to its housekeeping, it is clear to customers both old and new that this is a well cared for, inspirational fashion arena.

I know I have mentioned this before, but this really is one of our strengths. It is a point of difference that sets us apart from department stores and the high street, and hopefully keeps us independents one step ahead of the stiff competition from the multiples and department stores.

- Clare Hourigan is head of operations at Sunday Best in Rawtenstall, Lancashire.

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