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47 Michelle B

2 King Edward Terrace, Barrowford, Nelson, Lancashire

Who you need to know

Owner Michelle Birkins

Brands include Amanda Wakeley, Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Cain, Maria Grachvogel, Ralph Lauren, Sonia Rykiel, Temperley London

How do you make sure your core female customer accompanied by an impatient partner stays long enough to peruse all your store has to offer?

You sit her other half down with a beer and a newspaper and you are left in peace to work your selling magic. Such is the ethos of contemporary independent Michelle B in Barrowford that couples come back time and again.

“We are out of town and our shoppers actually come wanting to buy, so we make sure that happens,” says owner Michelle Birkins.

She also explains how the store has constantly evolved in the six years since it opened. “We struggled to get anything other than mainstream brands to sell to a small Lancashire store when we started, but we now offer Amanda Wakeley, Marc Cain and Diane von Furstenberg. What started as a shop for mothers now attracts the daughters to browse too.”

Birkins is happy to admit that a tough two economic years have been hard work, but rather than bury her head in the sand, the resourceful owner has tackled her customers’ diminishing disposable incomes with gusto.

The store offers a personal wardrobe overhaul service where Birkins ventures out to homes to chop dowdy long dresses into sexy short ones and add more life to a customer’s existing wardrobe.

She also offers a ‘hold’ option, where shoppers can reserve a product with a 10% deposit and then have 10 weeks to pay the balance and collect the item.

“I’m very proud of our strong customer base - we become friends and I think that personal service can be inspirational to other stores,” she says.

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