Having always been part of the optimistic school of retailing, even I am starting to have pre-match nerves. Am I correct in assuming our customers will remain loyal and will not start shopping at value stores?
Yes, comes the resounding cry from the tills. Of course times are harder and of course items cost more. But our customers still need clothes and footwear, and they want quality over value.
Customers want investment dressing and my duty is to provide them with pieces that work with their wardrobe, make them feel good when they leave the shop, and look great when they are worn.
I love all those films when people unwrap parcels and gifts. They always seem to be beautifully packaged, wrapped in tissue and ribbon. That is how every item should go out of the store and I want to imagine the customer when she gets home unwrapping the parcel, laying the item on the bed and putting other pieces with it from her wardrobe.
The relationship with the item starts the moment she tries it on and decides she is going to spend her hard-earned money on it. I want her to feel our warmth and gratitude when she has made her decision, so will wrap it with care.
Last Saturday I went shopping in Manchester. I was appalled by the standard of wrapping and the dismissive way the assistants dealt with the transactions in high street stores. It allowed me to learn from the customer’s point of view just how little I meant to the retailer.
If times are going to get tough, I want to keep the customers I have, regardless of the fact I am in the process of buying another shop, and thus gaining new customers. How’s that for optimism?
Hilary Cookson is the owner of womenswear independent Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire