Being an independent retailer means being the equivalent of a renaissance man or woman.
Address 2 King Street, Cambridge
Total stores One – this is an indie
Labels An eclectic mix
Ambience Über feminine
You have to be good at all things, whether it’s spotting the right location, choosing the best stock for that location or making sure your shop is at least as good as the competition (and probably better, bearing in mind that prices tend to be higher).
Boudoir Femme has been up and running in Cambridge for six years and it does what the best indies should: look after their customers. The King Street location is a new one – it moved premises earlier this year and the new shop is more than double the size of the previous one.
The clue’s in the name, however. This is still a small shop, where every piece is obviously the result of careful consideration and the mix of contemporary designers and vintage pieces seems to strike a chord with the locals.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Most visitors to an indie will be interested in labels and fashion, and the point about this kind of retailing is that each of these should be shown off without too much interruption. On this basis, Boudoir Femme succeeds and two wooden, heart-shaped vintage cabinets mean smaller items can be shown to advantage. The windows are standard fare with a mannequin in each, but they do attract attention. The interior is narrow, so most of the stock is located around the perimeter. A table and a central unit are at the back and owing to the available space, with the exception of the denim, there is hardly any style duplication. This does run the risk of creating a jumble-like look, but because none of the perimeter modules are overlong, the danger is averted.
02 - CONCEPT
Boudoir Femme is a destination. It may be in the city centre, but it is not on one of the show streets. It is, therefore, a place that shoppers will visit because they know it is there. The best indies work through reputation and a plaque states that the shop is a ‘Best Cambridge Ambassador’. It is, and while there is nothing even remotely design-led about the interior, it does have a feminine ambience that is in tune with the stock and serves to cosset its visitors.
03 - SERVICE
When it comes to the matter of giving the customer what she wants, Boudoir Femme is at the top of its game. On the day of visiting, a shopper was being given the full treatment and was clearly enjoying it – “I didn’t come in for a scarf”, she said, as she added to the pile of merchandise she had set aside. The two members of staff seemed to have an exhaustive knowledge and understanding of the brands that were stocked, representing real added value for those walking through the door.
04 - PRODUCT
American Vintage, Joe’s and MiH (for jeans), Handwritten and Libélula are among the names stocked. Prices start at £30 for a knitted vest from American Vintage and head upwards, with MiH jeans at £160 and higher prices for tailored pieces. There are is also a rail of vintage dresses – “perfect for May Balls” (this is normal among the jeunesse dorée in Cambridge), as your correspondent was informed. This may be the case, but the majority of this offer is aimed at the 35-plus woman and the selection is strong.
05 - COMPETITION
The fact that this store has doubled in size and that women were stopping to look seems to indicate that in spite of Cambridge having a strong representation of upscale brands, Boudoir Femme is having little trouble in seeing off the competition. Cuckoo, Giulio and Baska are all indies in the city and it is perhaps reassuring that there appears to be room for all of them. It is an affluent location and there are relatively few fashion retailers in the current climate that are in a position to grow in the manner achieved by Boudoir Femme, but Cambridge makes this a realistic ambition.
06 - VERDICT - A successful relocation
Given that this is a new location for Boudoir Femme, and although it has only moved along the street, there is always an element of risk in anything of this nature. It would appear that this is an indie that has settled into its new premises and is proving successful at justifying the transition. It is also a retailer that is specific to a location and which understands that at the heart of any proposition of this kind is service – something all the best independent stores know. Get this bit right and the rest has a tendency to more or less follow.