Michael Ashison is director of two-store London fashion retailer and agency Bullfrogs
It was great bumping into Drapers editorial director Eric Musgrave at footwear fair Micam in Milan earlier this year. I was working as part of the sales team trying to sell, among other brands, our own label Bullfrogs Footwear. Eric, who knew me as one of the directors of Bullfrogs, was curious as to how we had gone from being retailers to running a footwear agency.
When I wrote my last article for Drapers six years ago, Asos was not the all-conquering internet giant it is today and there was a tacky high street upstart that us brand-led retailers turned our noses up at - I think they were called Primark. Since then there have been a lot of changes to the British high street, and we have not been immune to them.
We have gone from being a mini multiple of six shops to a slim and profitable business comprising two shops and a growing footwear agency. I can testify to that old adage ‘more is less’ - six times the shops meant six times the problems.
Being leaner has allowed us to be more flexible, culminating in the opening of our agency 18 months ago. All good ideas require a bit of good fortune, so when we were trawling Micam looking for product for ourselves we had no idea coming across Spanish footwear brand Yokono, which we now represent, would have the effect it has had in bolstering our fledgling agency.
Before we took the brand to market we tested it in our own shops with great sell-through. We found this gives us real credibility when approaching potential wholesale customers. The sales team go to all appointments armed with current Bullfrogs sell-through. We are able to say to potential buyers: ‘Don’t take my word that Yokono sells - here’s the proof.’
The past few years of being on the other side of the fence has taught me that the cheque probably isn’t in the post, the sales director you’ve been trying to contact on the phone is frantically signing in the background that he is not in, and 30 days on an invoice is just a number. I wouldn’t have it any other way.