Are quality and service the key to successful retail?

Are quality and service the key to successful retail?
“I have always been inclined to work with quality fabrics, ever since starting out as a fashion student!”

With much doom and gloom in the news at the moment, often regarding the highstreet, I’m thrilled to share success stories with you. Not only because they’re inspiring but also because they’re interesting; generally retailers who have been in business for many many years, are very very good at it!

We’re talking to Brenda from Bare Necessities today. She’s in a competitive sector but one where a strong customer service offer is a key part of the service, a fact she’s absolutely making the most of.

Tell us about your route into retail?

I originally trained as a fashion designer, which is how I began my journey into fashion. After my studies, I took a break and travelled for a couple of years. Upon my return I started working in license trading.

After 15 years I was determined to go back to the fashion sector as that was what I enjoyed. I could see that there was clearly a need for correctly measured and fitted bras. Tying this passion with my original studies I finally decided to take the plunge and open up my own store. I was, and still am, passionate about meeting the needs and desires of my customers and filling the gap that I saw in the market.

I have now been operating for 21 years at Bare Necessities. My dedication to the boutique hasn’t deteriorated and neither have my values to provide women with a professional and personal experience to enable them to feel great about themselves. They deserve it.

“I have always been inclined to work with quality fabrics, ever since starting out as a fashion student!”

“I have always been inclined to work with quality fabrics, ever since starting out as a fashion student!”What is unique about the market you’re working in?

I truly believe that the premium lingerie retail market that I operate in fulfils most women’s needs, as we stock a wide variety of bras in cup sizes A-J. This includes many hard to find back sizes, giving the customer the comfort and support that you can only get from a fit perfect fit. This sector is very distinct in terms of the importance of the product in the customer’s life, it’s a big responsibility!

As our services are personal, we help our customers to understand the importance of a good bra fitting and how it can help your day to day life dramatically. This opportunity to talk feels quite unique to the product and is a great opportunity to build a connection.

How do you prepare for large seasonal events?

We prepare for large seasonal events, such as Christmas, by buying 6-9 months ahead, directly from the source of the premium brands. It’s important to order early from the brands we stock, like Empreinte and Marie Jo, because they are mostly made to order

Valentine’s day, which you may think would be a core part of our revenue, is actually only a small proportion. In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day I always notice more women browsing the store and purchasing lingerie. However, I strongly believe that a romantic dinner and bouquet of flowers is a much more common purchase than luxury lingerie (unfortunately for me!).

We do not believe in inflating our prices as a result of a seasonal event, so holidays like Black Friday are not in our calendar. As a premium retailer, we keep our prices constant because we think it’s in the best interest of the consumers.

Recommendations for similar businesses who may be encountering problems would definitely be to plan in advance and ensure that your stock is exceptional. Here at Bare Necessities we purchase our Autumn/Winter stock in the Spring. The planning of stock also benefits the organisation of adverts and email marketing to your customers that create awareness.

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Can you talk through your buying process, from start to finish?

My buying process has not altered a large amount over the 21 years that I have been in retail. I generally do not move between brands, because I love the quality of the brands I purchase from. I do always think about the customer when purchasing products, as I have to assess what will sell better, both online and offline.

With the rise of online shopping, I have had to rapidly adjust to this trend in order to remain competitive in the lingerie sector, which was a learning process in itself. Internet sales come with a huge set of competitors but also the ability to reach a wider audience in different countries. However, I still believe that there are many advantages of purchasing in store, and as quality and personal service are my key selling points I really try to capitalise on this.

If you could give younger self advice, what would it be?

I always enjoy being the face of the business in both online and offline aspects and I enjoy giving my customers a truly personal experience each and every time - I love what I do!

I would also advise myself to stick to what I believe in and what I’ve been taught. For example, not feeling too pressured and influenced to change methods that I know work, as we use the traditional method of measuring bras for women and to offer the advice on how we believe is best to wear them.

However, it is also important to understand that each customer differs. This is where building relationships with customers is crucial. We always offer our expert opinion, but what the ladies do after that is up to them and depends on their style and preferences.

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