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Getting down and dirty with agents

Jan Shutt

Service, service, service - that’s all we hear as retailers. The customer is king, so, to encourage them to part with their money, they have to be treated like royalty.

Service, service, service - that’s all we hear as retailers. The customer is king, so, to encourage them to part with their money, they have to be treated like royalty.

But what service do we receive as buyers when we are spending our budgets, which often run into thousands of pounds? I could write a book on the diversity of agents and showrooms and the experiences I’ve encountered over 39 years. In this space I can only provide a few.

One agent faked a phone call to Italy to ask if the collection was available to sell, pretending that the allocation for the UK was at a maximum. He got the dialling tone on speaker and before anyone could answer picked up the phone and proceeded to speak to himself, saying “ciao bella” and so on. The answer - inevitably - was yes, as long as we also bought another dreadful collection.

I’ve scrabbled in dirty, messy, showrooms. I’ve travelled to London for an appointment, only to be told on arrival the range was unavailable as it was already stocked in my area.

I’ve had my order cancelled after travelling to London and spending four hours ordering, as a big noise from the company visited Sunday Best and decided their very mid-market brand should not sit alongside contemporary labels such as Nicole Farhi, Paul Smith and Joseph.

I’ve also been “spoilt” with great service, and spent my budget in some very smart and edgy surroundings.

I’m not averse to searching through boxes for that gem of a garment. But it seems incongruous that we have to give great customer service for our customers spending £10 but that we experience such variable levels of service with brands ourselves when our spend with them often runs into the thousands.

Jan Shutt is owner and chief executive of premium womenswear and young fashion indie Sunday Best in Rawtenstall, Lancashire

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