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C See, Cobham

Customers like what they see after the complete revamp of the womenswear indie’s brand mix and interior.

It takes guts to totally overhaul a well established and successful womenswear independent - including a rebrand, refit, and shake-up of the brand mix - having just taken it on. But C See owner Cara Mitchell does not see it that way.

Mitchell worked for luxury department store Harvey Nichols before her family acquired the Surrey-based boutique, then named Envy, last summer. She believes the revamp was necessary to keep the store relevant during the downturn and beyond.

When Mitchell took over the running of the store last year, the summer Sale was ending and the autumn buy was completed, so Mitchell used the time to get to know her customer and plan her strategy for spring 09.

What ensued was a complete rethink of the brand mix with a sleek and contemporary new store interior and corporate identity to match.

After buying trips to New York and Paris, Mitchell returned having bagged an enviable mix of contemporary and premium brands including Elizabeth and James, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, Current/Elliott, Gryphon, Haute Hippie and Herve Leger. These now sit alongside brands such as Missoni, Temperley London, Issa and Anya Hindmarch, but to make way for the new wave, brands including Armani Collezioni and Class Roberto Cavalli were dropped.

“I changed more than I kept,” admits Mitchell of the old brand line-up, adding that the Italian designer brands she dropped did have a customer “but she only came during the Sale”.

Inspired by US multibrand boutique Intermix, whose philosophy is about individual style on a budget, Mitchell mixed up her buy to include more accessible price points and niche labels. Mitchell also introduced more accessories into the shop, such as belts and bags from Nogoy, jewellery from Kenneth Jay Lane and Spanx shapewear.

“Before, people said it was too intimidating to come into the store because it was too expensive and it was very focused on occasionwear,” Mitchell says. “Now I get mothers and daughters shopping together and I love it when that happens as it’s a double win. There are days when I’ve taken £2,000 on jewellery alone and the average price per piece is about £200.”

To showcase the new brand offer the store was completely refitted. Inspired by the black and white mock-Tudor exterior and the clean lines of high street chain Zara, Mitchell opted for a dark floor and white walls to best set off the product. An accent colour of fuchsia is used throughout the store and on stationery, carrier bags and wrapping paper.

Essentials

1,200sq ft Size of the store
20 Number of brands stocked
12 Months since Cara Mitchell took over the store

  • C See, 51 High Street, Cobham, Surrey

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