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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mary Queen of Shops Triumphs Over Obstinacy

mary Queen of scotsIn a strange way this short series with Mary, Queen of Shops doing a nice Gordon Ramsay to fashion boutiques has been fun and contrary to what I expected not always the same.

As I've noted before it seems it's invariably the case that the shop owners start off well then get into a rut and their shops become more charity shops than fashion houses.

Welcome To Fashionable Islington

Divorced couple Ruth and Anthony continue to run their boutique unhappily called "Comfort and Joy." Designer Ruth is producing clothes that compete head-on with major chains and she's trying to compete on price.

Not a good situation to be in.

When Mary suggests changing the name Anthony is not impressed and explains the name is a clever reference to a 70's Sex manual called "The Joy of Sex" by Dr Alex Comfort.

As Mary points out it's a book that the tribe the shop should be attracting wouldn't even have heard of.

So which tribe's that then?

Clever Mary Portas has realised that with Ruth designing and making her clothes for the shop the shop could clean-up by selling them to the individualistic woman shopper.

The first thing you notice as you walk in the shop is a central Berlin wall down the middle made up of hanging rails and topped by handbags.

On one side is Anthony's clothes a mish mash of designers sourced from around the globe. and the other contains Ruth's designs - some good, some not so hot.

Down With The Walls!

The first thing Mary suggests is removing the Berlin wall. Anthony is not impressed.

Then Mary suggests taking down the wall that blocks Ruth's design studio from the shop, so Ruth can go out and talk to the customers about the designs or simply say hello from the design table. And of course Anthony wasn't impressed.

In fact Mary got quite frustrated by Anthony's lack of enthusiasm for many of the points that at one moment she looked as if she'd throw in the towel.

Finally she takes Anthony material shopping to Liberty's and there she finds he's an absolute star for choosing exactly the right materials.

She also gives them both the chance to dress a side street shop window at Harvey-Nicks. And they do a good job of it. And of course Anthony is not impressed by what he sees as being "damned with faint praise."

After many moments of Anthony being under-whelmed, under-impressed and reluctant he relents and takes part in changing the shops' name to "Handmade and Found" (originally made and found and subtly improved by Mary by to Handmade and Found), designs and stamps the bags with the new logo and designs the new shop window and incorporates his designer buy-ins with Ruth's garments.

And The Result?

Of course the refit brought Ruth's designer backroom and her credentials out into the shop.

Anthony's materials really added something to Ruth's designs and they both found that they worked well together. The shop also become one unified shop rather than a shop with battle lines drawn between two talented and creative people.

The tribe they brought into to see the garments were very pleased and Ruth (if only she could see her own value) is able to charge more than she has been.

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