Thursday, 28 February 2013

Stylists styling stylists at Mary Portas & House of Fraser!

On Tuesday night I managed to get on the guest list of a fab event organised by ASIP London  where the lovely and very chic Melanie Rickey (fashion editor at Grazia, The Guardian to name a few)  gave a talk to stylists and image consultants on the creation of the Mary Portas collection in House of Fraser.
Mel with Pippa and Jennifer of ASIP
Mel said doing up your top button on your shirt will make your look instantly modern….
Melanie took us through a rail of samples from the collection telling us how and why the garments had been inspired and more importantly for whom they were targeted.
Her killer line that received lots of oohs and aahs, was when she told us about the “Mary Cocktail”….as we were sipping our Waitrose champagne, it seemed to tie in very well! The “Mary Cocktail” has the three key ingredients she, Mary and team use when putting together collections. 1 part chic, 1 part edge and 1 part decorate. We should all use this mantra when getting dressed in the morning so we can all succeed in looking as Mel said: modern, chic and current and that is exactly what the Mary Portas range is.
Also the  goal of the range is to fit and to flatter the wearer – for example some of their dresses are designed with the inner lining one size smaller which is a really clever idea. I should know as  I bought a red dress last summer and it was very flattering, and now I know why it was soooo figure hugging!!!
I loved hearing about inspiration for the designs and a shirt (below) was inspired by some Greek ceramic tiles found on a distant Greek island when Mary and Mel were holidaying – how cool is that! That is why you should always have your camera at hand to shoot anything that inspires you – that may at the time seem totally irrelevant to your field or sector (see our post on Retail Safaris) but that photograph will come back to haunt you as you prepare your shop windows or develop a new product range.
After Mel had finished her entertaining, informative and inspirational talk we then went on to browse the range and in turn to meet all the lovely staff who I had got to know in my sitting room as I watched the TV programme. What an amazing bunch of uber professionals! Amanda, Mark, Connie, Katie, Drew, Becky and John you all rock!
x 2 Amandas in this shot! With Mark and John
(PS check out my newly bought cobalt blue top seconds before the shot! It went so well with the pink jeans – that will soon be out of fashion according to Mel as 501s make a huge comeback, so team them up with something good whilst they are still just about in!)
Now these guys really know how to make a customer feel special and looked after with their most excellent customer service skills. I bet even if you were to buy a £2 lip balm they’d make your shopping experience as good if you were to buy the full range from knickers through to party dress!!
Now to a few shots we took as we enjoyed our evening …..
Orange is the theme – the colour is everywhere as are the actual fruit! I loved this visual merchandising idea of bringing life, vibrancy and colour to a shop where there is no natural light, and of course from running luxury alpaca knitwear e-store HUMM I really appreciated seeing the yarn as props.
Whilst creating ideas for your shop display, it doesn’t all have to be neon lights and high budgets – take a look at this simple but really effective idea of extending the branding. You will never forget which shop you are in when at Mary Portas House of Fraser. When I am doing face to face surveys to retailers, the first question when in store, is ‘What’s your shop called?’ and so often I turn my head 360 in search of branding or logo to tell me where I am….so imagine if you don’t do internal branding, how is the customer going to remember your shop name if they have thrown away your branded carrier bag?
Close up of the stencil painted board above the changing rooms
Another really cost effective and highly effective prop is the humble apple crate. You can white wash them or leave them as they come – see how great they look here, adding height to the table and making a cool backdrop for the mannequin.
Here is Connie looking amazing in her black version of the ‘no brainer’ yellow dress teaming it up with a red and black tartan long sleeved top:
And finally here are Drew and Mark just wrapping up my final purchase – limited edition Cowshed paraben free shower gel – heavenly. The boys are too good at their job!
What do you think? Have you visited the store? How do you like the visual merchandising ideas there? Please leave your comment!
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Friday, 15 February 2013

Is Mary Portas Marmite? What do you think of Alex Polizzi?

Love her or hate her? Mary Portas is Marmite. I think she is great as well as Alex Polizzi! Take a look at this blog:

I know there is a lot of flack going on around the Portas Pilots and that people are quoted to say that Mary Portas is a jumped up celebrity only interested in herself as she ‘waltzes’ into boarded up areas and offers ‘tired ideas’ and is not truly passionate about the shop owners once the camera stops rolling – see this article here by the Daily Express:

Well I have a different opinion to those disgruntled stall holders and shop owners: GET OVER YOURSELVES!

Having done face to face surveys to independent retailers on their marketing mix, there is a strong divide: half really want to know more about social media, PR and basic marketing techniques in order to boost their footfall whereas the other half bluntly and sometimes proudly declare they have no interest in learning how to encourage more customers into their empty shops.

We have found that the people who are well and truly are stuck in their ways seem to have a certain inevitability that one day soon they will have to shut up shop as they haven’t moved with the times to engage their customers.

Alex Pollizi in The Fixer time and time again has to counter negativity with the shops she deals with and often has head locking battles with the shop owners to try to get them to come out of the wood and actually see the trees from a distance as opposed to being right in the thick of it and never changing ‘the way we have always done things’. She has a long upward hill battle to convince the owners that her suggestions will work and benefit the shops, but she is often tearful at the impressive results when the shops do their refit/change mentality.

Now you are thinking well you need budgets of thousands of pounds to do all that. NO YOU DON’T. You can get quick wins by doing some simple change arounds in the shop – take a look outside your shop. Are there filled bin liners outside? (Yes we have a local tattoo parlour which has over flowing bin liners right outside the shop door – now what does that say for cleanliness?) Is your A board looking tired with peeling paint? Have you cleaned the shop fascia lately? Does condensation on the windows block passer byers from viewing your shop? (I see so many shops and cafes with this problem and a simple solution is spending under £10 on anti-condensation spray) Could you invest in a pot of paint, roll up your sleeves and repaint your shop fascia?

All these are low to no cost ideas that every shop needs to take notice of which will result in:

  • standing out from the crowd
  • giving  a higher perceived value to your offer (if you sell luxury gifts and the outside of your shop is tired it won't give people confidence to come inside and part with their money
  • you will attract your target audience

 I could continue with once you are actually inside the shop but this blog is getting a life of its own and growing already!.....

Now back to Mary’s market traders in Bow – I am sure there was half and half interest in what Mary Portas could do, but the piece has hit the papers because negativity sells. We need a Shops Motivating Guru and you are looking right at her!  …Well see my Gravatar below!

We had a retailers meeting two nights ago as Promote Your Shop is leading the Independent Retailer Month Easter Egg Hunt in Colchester and how refreshing to have a room full of happy smiley people who really want to make a difference to our town by:

• getting to know one another, partnering up,  and understanding what each other sells
• sharing the expense on leaflet printing and drops and other marketing initiatives
• and best of all to have monthly meet ups where new and old ideas are bashed about and generally supporting each other

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Monday, 4 February 2013

From Pop Up Shops to a fantastic new job!

Alina Isaev worked with me at my ecommerce business, HUMM Alpaca Knitwear ( as part of a government funded scheme for interns two years ago, and I am really proud to say that she has gone on to land herself a brilliant job as the SEO Copywriter and Social Media Manager at CarpetRight! See her tweets and follow her here! @carpetright

I took her under my wing and taught her about setting up pop up shops, how to deal with the public when selling – being approachable and friendly yet letting the buyers have space to browse, plus I helped her on her PR skills – and in return I had a truly loyal assistant who went out of her way to work at the fashion shows and events we organised. I really enjoyed giving her ‘on the job’ training, and am so pleased to see that along with her tenacity and natural flair she has been snapped up!

Here is her lovely testimonial in LinkedIn:

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