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Truffleshuffle

Pat Wood and Claire Lewis, owners of TruffleShuffle, tell Ana Santi why US film The Goonies has a starring role in their T-shirt etail business.

Where did the idea for TruffleShuffle come from?
Pat Wood
I bought a [cult US film] The Goonies T-shirt from a US website in 2004 and everyone loved it. There was nowhere to buy that sort of thing here, so I put it on eBay and sold it.
We decided to buy the domain name Truffleshuffle.com and buy T-shirts from the US to sell online. It was an accident really.

What made you decide to launch your own label, Famous Forever, in 2007? Claire Lewis Demand from customers who were asking for a certain cut, for example, so we bought loads of licences – we have about 50 now.

PW We have a Facebook page with 6,500 fans and they tell us what they’d like. Two weeks ago, for example, they wanted a My Little Pony T-shirt so we’ll have it available before Christmas – we can react quickly.

CL We’re always on it and keep on top of celebrity magazines too. Katie Price wore one of our Care Bears designs recently so we’re relaunching it.

How have the recent postal strikes affected business?
CL
We probably lost about half a day’s worth of sales but it wasn’t as bad as the strikes in 2007.

PW Because of the recession, people are queuing up for the temporary jobs at Royal Mail. We actually tried different couriers in 2007 but we had to subsidise orders by £2 and they lost loads of our parcels.

What about the recession?
Have you had to adapt your business model? CL We’re slightly protected from the recession because online retailing hasn’t been hit as hard but there are more competitors now, especially from high street stores.

PW Three years ago we were the 93rd biggest online clothing retailer by traffic in the UK according to [etail research firm] Hitwise and even though we’ve doubled in size, we’re now 123rd – stores like Urban Outfitters didn’t sell online then. But we’re trialling lower price points with a £20 range of T-shirts to see if that will help sales pick up.

CL We’re stretching our pricing architecture, with T-shirts going up to £40 and averaging at £25.

You also have another business – Sugarbullets.com. What does that involve? CL It’s a partnership with [young fashion brand] Amplified – we own 50% of the business for running their website, from doing the buying to shipping their orders. TruffleShuffle is the brand’s biggest customer and we now have a 9,000 sq ft warehouse.

Where do you see growth coming from?
CL
From an increase in product lines. Last year, we had 500 product lines, now we have 1,000 after introducing hoodies, mugs and sleepwear.

PW But from the level of customer service we offer too. We’re not on the high street so we can’t rely on passing traffic. Every customer is important. We always send orders by first-class post – it’s not that much more expensive – and we never advertise product that we don’t have in stock. Look at the reviews on the website – they’re never edited.

Quickfire questions

Who is your fashion icon?
CL
[Jimmy Choo co-founder] Tamara Mellon, from a fashion and business point of view.

Who is your favourite designer?
CL
Vivienne Westwood. But I love accessories so also like Christian Louboutin shoes (pictured) and Chanel bags.

Which is your favourite shop?
CL
Urban Outfitters and French Connection. And Net-a-Porter if money was no object.

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