Liz Trendle is owner of The Gate Boutique in Guildford and Catwalk in Godalming, Surrey.
Having had a successful boutique in Godalming, Surrey, for 14 years, I felt confident in my decision to open a second shop in the bustling town of Guildford. However, with the new venture came new challenges. Though my two shops are less than six miles apart, the clientele in my new location was totally different to that in my first shop.
In Godalming, the majority of my customers are ‘yummy mummy’ types, looking for a casual style and look that fits in with their lifestyle. Price points need to be keen, as many of them are paying private school fees and large mortgages. The shop is very much part of the village community and has loyal customers who pop in every week to find out what’s new, and who are just as likely to spend £30 on a top or £300 on a complete outfit. In our Guildford store, on the other hand, the clientele is more cosmopolitan and the women are confident dressers who follow fashion, but are not dictated by it.
My challenge has been adapting the brand mix to suit the different customer profiles of both shops. I now buy different clothing, footwear and accessories labels for the two stores. I have doubled my workload, but I am confident it is the right - and only - way to go.
It was this realisation that led me to the brave decision of rebranding my second store. I knew it was a risk, as I was effectively starting from scratch again and rebuilding my reputation under a different name.
However, a couple of seasons along both shops - now with different names, looks and brands - are thriving in a difficult retail climate.
I have learned how to make both of them work together and bounce off each other.
I found simple ideas, such as each member of staff working in both shops and always keeping images of our forward orders, help staff fully understand the brands and products. I spend time briefing my staff together and regular nights out are also on the agenda, because we are still one team, but have managed to create two very different shops to suit the two very different towns.