Two episodes of Mary Queen of Shops in and I have already started shouting at the telly – sometimes at the shop owners and sometimes at Mary Portas.
At the moment, it’s mainly at the shop owners – about an 80/20 split – but what the first two episodes have rammed home is the potential for complacency among independent boutiques.
I know the Mary Queen of Shops production team are looking at the most extreme examples of struggling businesses because they make the best TV, but it never hurts to revisit how your business stacks up against some basic retail fundamentals.
The strongest theme emerging from the series so far is a failure by the shopkeepers to empathise with, and understand who, their customer is and what they want. This was brought home to me again this week when I was on a panel of judges assessing London College of Fashion’s fashion marketing students for the Oasis Dissertation Prize.
One of the students, Anna Harrison, wrote her dissertation on the prospects for womenswear independents. She asked women what they felt about the boutiques in their town.
Staff attitudes was the second highest reason why the women surveyed felt uncomfortable shopping at independents. The first was a perception of the boutiques being too expensive.
As a champion of the independent sector, I was quite defensive about this, but it has a ring of truth. I have many friends who spend more than me on clothes, but are less willing to enter boutiques for this very same reason. So maybe it’s time for indies to re-examine some
of those fundamentals.
Lorna Hall is executive editor of Drapers