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Food for thought on the road to recovery

Are there really green shoots showing? All I know is that we’ve enjoyed a fantastic February and that March is shaping up beautifully. Long may it continue.

How interesting this “lean” time has been. I’ve adopted the maxim that the “niche just got nicher”.

The net result is that my store, Maureen Cookson, has launched a new department this season, called Excel. Now stocking up to a size 28, we have marketed this new area with a launch party and a lunch day for our Excel target customers. A new website, customer database and mailing list are being developed and there will soon be a dedicated blog tracking new customers.

What we have found so far is how lovely, grateful and loyal these larger-sized customers are proving to be and the sell-through has been amazing for a first season - we are already talking about increasing the size of the department.

Alongside this venture, we are also opening a wine bar and delicatessen in two weeks. Doors will lead into the store to allow customers to migrate through. We have a takeaway menu for those customers who stay shopping a tad too long, as well as fresh bread and cakes for sale each day.

It has, though, been a whole heap of work and cost a shedload of money to develop. Has the bank been helpful? No. We’ve had to jump through hoops and promise the world when all we want to do is be ready for the emerging recovery.

If only threatening to change banks would have worked, but we are so tied in it is impossible to easily carry this through.

But a glass of Chablis at the opening of the wine bar, which brings so much promise for the store, will make it all worth it. Cheers. Has the bank been helpful? No.
We’ve had to promise the world.

Hilary Cookson is the owner of womenswear store Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire

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