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Balancing fresh stock and old favourites is key

Fiona Coe manages womenswear at independent department store Coes in Ipswich, and is a member of the Fashion Association of Britain (FAB) www.fashionassociationofbritain.co.uk .

Fiona Coe

Fiona Coe

An active part of our menswear business is formalwear and hire, so our female customers have come to expect the equivalent in eventwear when they visit us.

It forms a large part of our spring delivery, although it is by no means a quick sale. We tend to leave the fully blown occasionwear business to the specialists.

The bread and butter of our womenswear at Coes is our contemporary fashion department; a shop for women to find clothes for every day. Our core customer visits us on a weekly basis just as she might visit the hairdressers.

It’s important for us to strike a balance between keeping our offer fresh and exciting, and yet also familiar and reliable. I would hate to ignore our mainstream brands, such as Gerry Weber, and alienate our traditional customers who have been visiting us for many years.

We are doing really well with Vilagallo and Hunky Dory at the moment and they are proving to be best sellers for us, largely because they are unlike anything else on the market at the moment and their fit is brilliant too. We’re also excited about introducing Selected Femme into our mix this season.

Having the option to place forward orders while also injecting the shopfloor with new deliveries each month keeps the stock fresh and allows us to react to trends. And having a strong mother-and-daughter following at Coes means that meeting both the traditional and trend-led markets is important for us.

As an independent store, I feel it’s the attention to detail we provide that sets us apart from the multiples. We know our customers and listen to them and their story.

At the start of every season our top 60 customers will receive a hand-written card from us with an update on the delivery of their favourite collections and following up on the last conversation we last had with them in store.

This may involve their family, their dog or their broken leg, but it will show them that we care and that we listen. We feel that it’s this direct communication and relationship building that matters to the Coes customer and secures their loyalty to us.

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