At Seladex, we’re focused on helping apparel and accessory showrooms succeed by helping them stay organized, better manage their showrooms and increase sales through the use of our Fashion Showroom CRM (Customer Relationship Manager).
However, we go beyond the use of technology as a means to help entrepreneurs in the fashion industry grow. We’re big believers in education, so from time to time we bring in fashion experts from around the world to help educate you, our blog readers, about the various ways you can grow your fashion empire.
Today, Seladex had the opportunity to speak with Becky Bogue, the founder of Lunacy, a fashion boutique in South Wales, UK.
We have an exciting interview planned for you today about Becky’s journey into fashion, so without further ado, let’s jump in!
Hello and thank you for joining us today to talk about Lunacy. Can you help us kick off the interview by telling us a little bit more about your background in fashion and how Lunacy was born?
Hey there. Lunacy was born from my dream. Before I opened the shop I worked in car insurance (that wasn't by choice, I just fell into it), however, my car insurance background helped me with my confidence to put my dream into reality.
My dream was to create a fabulous and quirky boutique making fashion accessible to everyone. I didn't want any snobbery, I wanted to create passion for clothes without a big price tag attached and to offer my services for styling as a free part of the shopping experience. I started the shop in December 2003 and my vision has blossomed into the beautiful store that it is today! I decided to invest in my dream as, at the time, I was only 24 years old and had no financial commitments, so I braved it and jumped in! I have no background in fashion, just a huge passion for it (and styling)!
I adore fashion styling and being in a small industrial town, there really is no call for it, so I thought, if the mountain won't come to me, then I will go to the mountain! Aside from passion, to have your own fashion boutique and business in general, you need to have a strong work ethic, determination and be driven by love, not money.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the early days of Lunacy? How did you go about location scouting for your current location? What location considerations were most important for your brand?
So as the shop has grown (it's now into its 16th year of trade) so has my experience, confidence and my customer base. When I started, I listened to others for feedback, which is good of course, and people have good intentions, however no one has the vision like you do about your business. So over the years, I have tried and tested things.
Some have worked. Others haven't. Both successes and failures are good in the world of business, as you need them both to reaffirm where you are heading as a business.
Location wise, for me it was either going central at a cost, or going more out of town and creating a destination store with cheaper rent, but then allowing the business to grow more organically over the long run.
Parking, accessibility and general convenience were the most important aspects when we had our first rental shop. When I looked at the time there wasn't much locally about, so my choices were very limited. My choice did work for the time (we have since relocated) but looking back, it wasn't the best location just because it was a corner property on a main road that had double yellows outside and a one way street down the side for parking. However it wasn't too far from the train station and the centre of town, so logistically speaking, it wasn't too bad either.
As a boutique, what were your biggest challenges early on and how did you overcome them?
Building a customer base. One week in the first ever February that I opened I took in a ridiculously low sum of money and I panicked and thought I couldn't sustain the business. Managing cashflow is by far the most challenging aspect in my line of work. Being a retail shop, you can be open and work all hours of the day, but it doesn't necessarily equal the finances to match. This is an ongoing part of my job. I have to overcome these obstacles. Mentally first, through self-belief and positivity, and physically by building my customer base over time. I can never rest on my laurels. I am constantly plugging on social media, updating the website, bringing the store to the public, and keeping in people's thoughts. After that I have to take a backseat and see the rewards from my efforts. It's a balance.
How long did your initial store build take? Was Lunacy the first store you've ever started from scratch? What were some of your biggest build challenges during that time? How did you overcome them?
The first store was a rental. It was only decoration on the shop floor, the stockroom and kitchen where very minimum changes were needed. So the build took approximately 3 weeks. Yes lunacy is the first and only store I have ever created from scratch. The first shop wasn't a challenge really, as it was just decoration.
However, moving to the Port Talbot store to where we are now (we moved Nov 2010) where we bought the property, has been the biggest challenge, as this move required a full renovation.
The truth is, without my sister’s love and vision for renovations (she has a true love for buildings), then it wouldn't have been possible. My sister bought into the business in October 2007 and we opened a second store in the capital, Cardiff. We later closed this store in January 2011. So when we moved in November 2010 for the renovation, we had two heads together working and creating our amazing store that we love and cherish today. Having two heads helped us as we supported each other when needed. Plus, my amazing dad, who is a builder, did the renovation. So it was very much a family labour of love.
How did you go about building relationships with brands when you were first getting started? How has that process changed over time?
I was just myself. I chose to be my own boss and part of the reason for this is freedom and creativity. I pick a brand based on product and price but also based on the service they provide. Every season I look at the next collection and do so and say to myself, “would I stock this brand if I was looking at this for the first time”? If I don't get excited or have a great gut reaction to it, I will drop a brand.
It's important for me to always have a love for the product, as if I don't I can't sell it. I have built my business based on honesty and that integrity is what has made it a success. Of course if I do skip a season but love the following season, I pick the label up again. Some people might say that this is brave move....or a stupid move… but I see it as ensuring I provide the best ever collections to my customers. If I wasn't doing that, I would be doing a disservice to my customers.
And the process, or should I say my approach, has never changed. However, I will say as I have grown with experience and age...ahem... I am more assured in my decisions these days, so I'm less likely to be swayed for fear of displeasing a supplier.
Can you tell us a little bit more about how much your web presence contributes to bottom line growth?
I do consider my website one of my worst growth channels. However, I do find that since having the website online, that a lot more local people do come into the store. It's just very hard for me to measure.
I noticed a blog post on your site where you mention that you're a bit of a technophobe. Yet, you're on Instagram, your website is kept up to date.... For you, are these technologies a necessary evil? Are you learning to appreciate technology more over time as you learn about the benefits it can bring your company?
Haha! Yup. I do get anxious from social media. And I do believe it creates loads of bad habits in people. Everyone needs to deal with things in their own way. For me, I use social media for the business benefits (but I don’t use it personally very much). I do think social media has great qualities and definitely has helped my business soooo much. But it's a worry for the younger generation with cyber bullying and popularity contests with all the liking etc. So I'm just taking the good and running!
On a similar note, I see your Instagram account is growing. How important has Instagram been for you as a driver of growth?
As Instagram has been increasingly popular, I just include it as part of my daily list of jobs. I usually post an Instagram story as well as an image upload to help grow our followers on Instagram, and to keep our existing followers interested.
What are your biggest growth channels and why do you think these channels work best for you?
Word of mouth, Facebook and Instagram.
WoM: Word of mouth for obvious reasons. There will be no better person to refer someone else than someone else. As it's not coming from any biased perspective.
Facebook. Again, I update Facebook daily to keep customers interested and to help create new clients. It works. I do think through hard work and investing time, Facebook can work well for retail shops. Same for Instagram.
What are your three worst performing growth channels, and why do you think these channels under-perform?
Website. Blog. Advertising.
Website - Because I am a small indie boutique, it's very hard to be found in cyberspace. So, in my experience, the website is good, very good in fact from a local perspective where people know about us, but for others across the rest of the UK and worldwide who don't know about us, then it's hard to get your name out there without it costing a fortune.
Blog - Because it's linked to our website. And maybe I talk too much! Haha. #truth
Advertising - It's very expensive and difficult to monitor results. So generally I don't do it as I prefer organic growth anyway.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you give to up and coming fashion entrepreneurs who are thinking about opening a boutique?
1) Only do it if you love it, not for money.
2) Determination and consistency.
3) Believe in yourself. Others will follow and trust you if fashion truly is your passion.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with Seladex blog readers today about your experience in the retail boutique space. It’s been inspiring learning about your history and ups and downs. To our readers, if you’d like to learn more about Lunacy you can head over to their website here.