Attire Accessories - Sep/Oct 2018 (Issue 72)

RETAIL INTERVIEW 121 A head for heights Mary Cummings, owner of Kettering-based boutique mary&me, tells of the shop’s inception, her love of servicing her local community with fashion and her future plans Tell us a bit about mary&me and how you came to open the business. I worked for the previous owner of the business, who is a shoe agent. Because of the changing nature of his business (he was servicing more multiples than independents), he decided to move to smaller offices and concentrate just on shoes and the nuances of multiple business. As a result, he wanted to sell the boutique part of his business. I loved the social aspect of fashion and shoes because it was so different from my banking and finance career. I have never been frightened of a challenge and a bit of hard work, so taking on the shop seemed to tick so many boxes. What challenges were overcome when the company was starting out? Taking over a business without a time of closure and ensuring that everything was done and transitioned without causing the customer any inconvenience was challenging. Likewise, taking on someone else’s buy and back selling stock that had been preordered and was on hold until completion of the transfer took place. What is your customer base? My customers are women aged 20 to 85. Some are original customers to the shop; others I have gained by recommendation. What’s your USP? I have worked closely with people throughout my career, so I think excellent customer service and honesty is paramount for an independent business – it is what sets us apart. You have got to be prepared to work with your client, learn about them, their lifestyle and what works for them. This includes introducing new looks, helping them to gain confidence and reinvent themselves. I think women are always wanting to do this to keep a fresh new look. Are you active on social media, and how do you use it for your business? I use Facebook and Instagram at the moment. On Facebook, I regularly post about new items that come into the shop and generally do a weekly Mailchimp that is emailed and linked to Facebook for customers who have subscribed to my mailing list. Instagram is a little shop window that generates followers and interest in the shop. How do you choose what to stock? I obviously try to embrace trends but have to bear in mind my customer base, and because the main body of my clients is a repeat customer, I have to ensure I don’t duplicate styles too regularly. Therefore, I tend to look for detail and quality in items that set them apart and make them more appealing. How often do you change up your window dressings and displays? I generally change the displays within the shop every two to three days, and we change the window every week on a Saturday. What are your plans to develop your online presence? As the business is still relatively new to me, it is my intention to get an online presence this year. It has been my priority to get the shop running efficiently – I’m learning to walk before I run! Do you attend any trade shows – if so, which ones and why? I attend Scoop, Pure and Moda. I love Scoop because some of the brands there are brands I stock and others what I aspire to stock in the future! I love the space and feel of the show. I have gone to Pure for years, and I think the show is changing – I go there to place some orders and to look for new product and ideas. Moda is close to home, and I go there to place a few orders. I also like to catch up with people I used to work with within the shoe trade. What has been your standout moment since opening the store, and why? There have been a few – some of them personal. However, the ones I get most joy from are when I help a client achieve a look and they come back a few months later and they are dressed head to toe in mary&me. How do you view the fashion accessory/jewellery retail market at present, and what advice would you give other retailers? There is so much available in our market at the moment. I like items where there is a bit of a story or that are ethically made, such as items that are recycled and remade. We are beginning to realise that we need to give back or to help communities and make the best of our resources. I have found that if there is a story to a garment or a necklace, the community that produces a product is generally made up of people who embrace their work because they feel they are doing their bit. What are your plans for the future? I would like to think that my business will grow and that I can service my community and wider area. I hope I will have a successful online presence and that the upstairs stock room will become the start of another project – soon! MARY&ME T: +44 (0)1536 310 447 E: @maryandmeclothing