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Bernard celebrates 30 years in business

Designer womenswear independent Bernard of Esher in Surrey is celebrating its 30th anniversary this week.

Owner Helene Rapaport is toasting three decades of trading for womenswear independent Bernard which opened in the 1970s, and is in bullish mood as the retail sector faces a recession.

The shop, which started life as a small boutique, now operates from a 3,000sq ft space that spans three units and sells designer brands such as Antik Batik, Luella and Stella McCartney.

Rapaport is considering opening a second store locally next year and said her experience in retail had taught her to treat every season as a “blank canvas in store with fresh and exciting product at the forefront”.

She started her retail career designing window displays for independent retailers, before opening her first store in Cranleigh, near Guildford in Surrey. The business grew rapidly to seven shops, but was reduced to one store in Esher following the recession in the early 1990s.

However, having already run a business during a recession, Rapaport said she was in a much better position this time around.

She said: “All the money I make I plough back into the business. People still have plenty of money to spend and retailers need to make sure they have the right product mix and service. The atmosphere in store is extremely important. Our shop is very relaxing and easy to browse.”

Rapaport said the womens-wear market now sells to a customer with a different mentality to the shopper of 30 years ago.“The customer has really changed over the past 30 years,” she said. “In the past, people would buy one pair of shoes, one coat and one dress. Customers now want newness and freshness all the time, and as retailers we have to react to that.”

Rapaport hosted a glittering party last week to celebrate Bernard’s anniversary. Guests sipped drinks, listened to jazz, and were treated to a £50 voucher to spend in store.

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