I am a founding member of ASIP, the Association of Stylists and Image Professionals, and as a follow up to our most recent event where we were joined by Peter Cross, Mary Portas' business partner, I was interviewed for a 'stylists in retail' feature for the members' monthly newsletter.
I thought I would share a copy of the article with you...
ASIP members open their shop doors
ASIP founding member Julie Hurst entered the world of retail via a chance phone call. Now with a successful dress agency in Tunbridge Wells, she hasn't looked back.
After 25 years working in insurance management, Julie turned her passion for fashion into a full-time career after training with Aston+Hayes in 2008. She started Signature Style Consultancy soon after but the lure of retail beckoned... "I wanted to have my own shop but I had no experience in retail. I asked for advice and called the owner of the local dress agency where I'd been a customer for some years. But he didn't give me advice - he asked me if I wanted to buy the shop!"
Driven by a 'now or never' attitude, Julie bought the shop in February 2010 and spent a year getting to know her customers while learning the retail trade 'on the job'. After a much-needed interior refit, Julie is planning an external makeover and a new website in the coming months (including a name change from the inherited 'Panache' to a new name reflecting the agency's stylish and modern feel.)
Julie only accepts designer or 'high end high street' labels that fit the shop's brand. She often puts items on sale at 50% of the purchase price, splitting the proceeds fifty-fifty with the donator. Items that do not sell after eight weeks are given to a local hospice: a charitable, sustainable and money-spinning process that is increasingly popular with customers. Currently in store is cut-price Dior and Gaultier, with new items arriving every day (often with tags still attached!). There is also a waiting list for her customers' favourite label Mulberry. The stock reflects her personal approach to styling: with plenty for avant-garde and modern dressers who like to mix high street with designer.
"As a stylist running a boutique you must keep your integrity and not be a salesperson," advises Julie. "Personal shopping in the big chains comes from salespeople, they're selling you something! One customer had that experience recently in a well-known department store - she spent lots of money, but half of it didn't suit her so ended up in my shop to re-sell!"