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Havetolove

Newcastle upon Tyne indie Havetolove is making a name for itself as a little boutique with a big personality.

They say fortune favours the brave, and that has certainly been the case for Newcastle upon Tyne womens-wear independent Havetolove. Confident enough in her ability to make a mark after just eight months of trading, owner Kate Walton entered her fledgling store into the 2007 Drapers Awards back in July, and was rewarded by walking away with the Best New Business prize.

“Winning the award was brilliant, and it has certainly helped us to become recognised nationally as well as locally,” says Walton. “Customers are driving up to two hours to visit us, and we were even featured in the Times newspaper’s Saturday magazine.”

All this exposure is impressive for a shop that covers just 500sq ft and is located in a small, well-heeled village on the edge of Newcastle upon Tyne. “Gosforth is a really lovely place. It’s an affluent area so people have the money to afford more exclusive products. The location has parking space too, which is a big plus for attracting customers from out of the village,” says Walton. The first year’s figures backed the location choice, with a turnover of £180,000 expected to double this year, and the website accounting for 30% of total sales.

The brand list has also grown since the store opened 18 months ago. Walton offers both dressing down and glamming up options, and the flirty dresses and sexy denim pieces look perfectly at home in the boudoir-inspired store’s hot pink and sleek black decor. New brands added this season include Danish label By Malene Birger and young fashion favourite American Retro, alongside mainstays such as Manoush, Tibi and Diabless. “Suppliers are approaching us now wanting us to stock their product, rather than the other way round. This is great for us as we get our pick of the best brands,” says Walton.

And it’s not just fashion brands that are impressed with Havetolove’s success. The Malmaison Hotel in Newcastle upon Tyne recently joined forces with the shop to put on a fashion show of spring 08 product. Walton says: “The show was great – we kept it quite exclusive, for our regular clients as well as some regular Malmaison clients. Malmaison created special Havetolove cocktails for the evening, and a raffle raised £500 for Gracehouse North East Children’s Hospice.”

Online is key to Havetolove, and plans are afoot to update the web operation. “We want to add a wishlist option, and we want the site to be updated more regularly,” says Walton.

So how does she intend to build on her early success? “Initially, we want to expand into the store room upstairs,” she says. “We hope to bring in some lingerie and accessories labels (Havetolove already stocks Manoush handbags and its own label handbags, Havetohold), and some footwear. In the long term, we’d love another shop, somewhere in the south. I think that as a brand Havetolove has a lot of potential and we intend to capitalise on that.”

Essentials:
2007:
The year Havetolove won the Best New Business prize at the Drapers Awards
550sq ft: Amount of trading space at the store
30% percentage of total sales that its website accounts for

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