In less than two years, Unique Boutique has won a significant following for its sexy short-order party dresses.
I’m desperate to find a more affordable alternative to Roberto Cavalli,” sighed the owner of a prominent womenswear boutique during a chat at last season’s edition of womenswear show Pure in London. An hour later she returned to the press office after discovering Unique Boutique, having placed an order on the spot. Two months later, a catch-up phone call to the retailer revealed that Unique Boutique had shot straight into the store’s top three best-selling collections.
Unique Collections, the company behind celebrity-endorsed cocktail dress label Unique Boutique, was initially conceived by 37-year-old owner Sandeep Malhotra to help independents beat the high street on trends. “Because we deliver three collections every season and refresh the product so regularly, our styles have an individual feel,” says UK sales manager Sumit Jairath. “Independents need a faster rotation on product and that’s what drives our brand. Everything we sell is available from stock from a Manchester warehouse, which means next-day delivery on all orders.”
Main seasonal collections comprise about 60 pieces. Skirts, tunics, tops and light knits all feature, alongside Unique’s most significant category, dresses, which represent 40% of each range. Additional drops during the season introduce extra hits of 35 pieces.
At last week’s Pure, the brand presented a spring 08 range characterised by directional prom dresses, dip-dyed styles, rope-neck shirts, embellished tops and a new mid-range rock-inspired story.
About half of the brand’s sales are generated through trade shows Pure, Moda in Birmingham and Dublin’s Futura Fair. The remainder is covered by a sales team of four covering the UK and Republic of Ireland. A further 25, including a four-strong design team, work out of the Manchester HQ.
Wholesale prices range from £25 to £130, a pricing strategy that Jairath is confident will become more competitive in the future. “At the tail end of last year we invested in our own factory in China,” he explains. “We’ve shifted production from Turkey and can now pass on a 15% price saving to our customers.”
Despite only launching in August 2006, Unique Boutique’s 290-strong stockist list reads like a who’s who of contemporary retail, with stockists including Browns in Glasgow, Essex mini-chain Choice, and Bournemouth’s Richmond Classics.
Asos began stocking the brand last autumn, and for spring 08 Unique Collections has designed a range exclusively for the etailer. “We’re in a tricky predicament,” Jairath says.
“Indies are spending less so we need to attract higher-volume customers, but we want to protect our independent business. We have a strict policy of not supplying any account within a 10-mile radius of existing retailers. When we lower our prices I expect some existing accounts may worry that it will open the floodgates, but it won’t be at the detriment of our distribution.”
Unique Boutique 0161 228 2207
290: Number of UK stockists
3: Number of collections each season
50%: Percentage of sales generated from trade shows
60: Number of pieces in each season’s mainline