Gemma Lessinger is a buyer at lifestyle independent Ann’s Cottage, which has nine shops in Cornwall.
We have had another great year at Ann’s Cottage, topped off by winning the Drapers Lifestyle Independent of the Year award for the second year running. Being chosen to be a finalist was exciting enough, but winning made it all the more special. Being recognised for a second year really makes us feel that our team’s dedication and devotion has paid off.
The Drapers Independents Awards judges were particularly impressed by the success of our own brand ACS, which is now being developed for the (not so distant) spring 15 collection.
As a buyer, I am exposed to key trends for each season, selecting from our large portfolio of wholesale brands. Creating our own felt like a natural progression, developing a range that fulfils the needs of our customers and fills the gaps our external brands may have missed.
Margin is key for any retailer, so to be able to produce a range in-house allows us to control and seek out those all-important higher profit margins. Our customers are frequently giving us welcome feedback that they are still very price-conscious, however they are looking for quality product that is going to withstand the lifestyle they lead. They are bombarded with fast, throwaway fashion on the high street, so to find a range at a good price that is not compromising on quality is enticing. With the higher margins the range gains, we can retail ACS products at a very competitive price point, which in turn encourages sales when merchandised alongside our globally recognised brands.
It is incredibly rewarding to hear positive feedback from our customers on a range that we have worked so hard to develop. Our first two seasons of ACS received brilliant feedback with emphasis on quality and attention to detail. More importantly, the sell-through far exceeded our expectations for a range launch.
This success has inspired us to branch out into new categories to build the range even further. No matter what we create, though, quality and affordability will always be at the forefront of our brand development.