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Reinventing yourself when the chips are down

Janine O’Keefe founded womenswear independent Okeefe in Esher, Surrey.

It’s been quite a year. First, weeks of rain to start the season and a general air of doom and gloom, which was followed by the discovery that around a third of the brands we carry in store are sold on various websites but at a vastly reduced margin - some below a two-times mark-up.

We have had to price match on our website from the beginning, but this has now been removed as we simply cannot compete with this level of discounting.

Then the bombshell arrived at the end of April. We knew we were due a rent review this summer, but our landlords informed us it would be in the region of a 30% increase. This has made continuing to trade in my existing store in
Esher impossible.

I let all my customers and fellow local traders know my plans last week [the news was revealed in Drapers’ June 28 issue] and was amazed at the huge outpouring of support and how sad my customers were that we were closing. I’ve received countless emails and had many conversations in the store. I am genuinely touched by all the warm and flattering comments.

I am not going to just give up and let all the hard work of building my business over the past 10 years go.

My plan is to set up pop-up shops in Surrey from the autumn/winter season and carry on
trading in an area where I have built my business and a loyal, established customer base for
the last decade. Our transactional website will continue under the Okeefe banner.

This initially tough news has now inspired me to use the skills, contacts and experience I have gained in exciting new directions. I shall be able to spend more time on global buying trips sourcing unique and original brands and
will continue to pursue my passion for writing and presenting at industry events.

It has encouraged me to think again and reinvent myself.

Watch this space.

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