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Take a step back to see the bigger picture

Melissa Wheeler works with her mother, Vicki Wheeler, at Ambiance of Colchester.

  • Ambiance is a committee member of the Fashion Association of Britain (FAB),

How often in retail do we sigh to ourselves, “If only I’d known this would be a bestseller then I wouldn’t have bought so much of that other style”, or “If I’d realised that would have such a positive impact on sales then I’d have done it earlier”. The answer is too often
to mention.

We had a major revamp of the shop floor before our pre-Christmas Sale, which involved a radical inversion of the whole shop in terms of new collections versus Sale merchandise.

For 29 years the first floor has been dedicated to Sale merchandise and lovingly referred to by its fans as The Sale Room, whereas the ground floor has showcased the new and current collections. This December we inverted the set-up and had the ground floor dedicated to Sale stock.

The result was the most successful first day of the Christmas Sale for us in all of those 29 years. As it happened, we have an inordinate amount of occasionwear in the shop at the moment due to a very slow season in that sector, which is a major cause of concern. Incidentally, has anyone else noticed a distinct pattern of dressing-down at weddings of late?

Now the logic of the shop layout is glaringly obvious: if we want customers to buy the reduced merchandise then we need to make it easy for them to see it, find it, try it on and buy it.

It’s a little embarrassing that this common sense was in fact such a revolutionary idea which we’d have done well to have implemented earlier, but then it’s easy to see how a business owner’s creativity can become paralysed by the day-to-day pressures of running a small, independent bricks-and-mortar store.

Fresh thinking is a concept bandied around liberally but it’s hard to adopt when simple, new ideas can be crushed beneath the weight of piles of paperwork. Someone once told me that if you want to fully appreciate a wall painting it’s no good standing up close to it; it’s best to stand back to gain a full perspective. The same can be said of one’s shop.

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