Drapers probe leading Indies to get their View From The Shop floor.
How is trade at the moment?
If the weather hadn’t taken a change in direction, we would probably be doing better. We have the strongest stock we’ve ever had, and the minute the sun comes out, we have a good day. We’re waiting for the weather to warm up. We’re trying to beat the weather at its own game. Sales are down from last year.
What are the biggest challenges facing you at the moment and how are you combating them?
The biggest challenge is the footfall. There is a lot of talk about the credit crunch and people have restricted their spending. I really believe we are talking ourselves into the problems by being negative. Footfall is down, people aren’t coming into the shop. They can get cheap clothing at high street and rent is expensive for independents. In these situations when the economy is depressing, it can be very easy to pull back and not inject any personality into what you do.
I’ve done more elaborate window displays to be bring people in. You have to become the place they come to when they have money in their wallets.
You have diversified from being simply a clothing store into other areas, what do you offer customers now?
We offer clothing, accessories, and gifts. We are opening a new shop that will offer more gift and also vintage clothing. We do a lot of fashion accessories, and a lot of brands. We have a lot of styles in at the moment. We’re moving to a new unit in August. This is a scary thing to do in the current environment. But retail always bounces back. Its tough right now, but everyone must remember that retail always bounces back.
Is there anything interesting happening to the Weybridge retail scene?
We are a village community, so we have a lot of new retailers coming in. This brings people in, but also creates problem with the rent. Shoppers are walking with their heads down and no one is making bold moves on that moment. Shops are all trying to compete for the same customer. It’s very competitive right now. It’s very competitive for our labels right now, you’ve got to be the first in the show room. I’m bringing in brands from New York people haven’t seen in this country, and they are dong well.
Which other retailers do you admire?
I love Matches. They were inspiration for launching my website. Their site is very visually pleasing. Matches reinvents itself every so often, so I don’t get bored going into their shop.
I believe high street has become a bit too samey. I think the high street and cheap buying will have its day, but people will return to independents. Topshop is really inspiring. They’re always thinking ahead of time so they can keep people guessing about what the next move is going to be.
Which brands are selling well at the moment?
Denim such as Radcliffe Denim is doing very well. Radcliffe is a good jean because they have a cut for everybody and it’s a great quality denim. [Young fashion brand] Almost Famous never fails us.
Which trends are selling well?
High rise jeans are selling well as are jeans with a bit of flare in the leg. Wider leg jeans and premium quality denim are going well.
How are accessories sales fairing?
Accessories are doing really, really well. Accessories always do really well when people don’t sell that much. People will treat themselves with a necklace, rather than a top. We’re doing really well with vintage jewellery.
Recent research suggests that the craze for the ‘IT’ bag could be coming to an end, what do you think of that?
I think IT bags are coming to an end. I think it’s a statement. It used to be cool, now everyone is walking around with the same bag. The prices can’t get any higher, they have to go the other way. We try to source bags that are completely individual. Our bags have to be quite crazy to get people to notice them.
What do you have planned for this year in way of moving the business forward?
We launched our website in November. We’ve had a great start to that. It has been slow but steady. Also, we have plans to move our existing shop to a bigger unit up the street. We’re adding stunning new labels to a stunning new shop. We have also launched in store jean parties and late night openings.
Melanie Trevett is owner of womenswear boutique Cristina in Weybridge, Surrey.
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