How is it possible to take over a small, independent fashion store and transform it into a high street favourite?
Ruth Holden, owner of Kimora Fashion & Lifestyle in Barrowford, Lancashire gave us the inside track.
When Ruth first came across Kimora it was in her previous role as a sales agent working to supply retailers in the gifts, homewares, and fashion sectors. So, when the opportunity to buy the business came along, she saw a chance to put her stamp on it, transforming it into something truly special.
“At the time, I had never even considered owning a retail business,” she said. “But when the opportunity came up I knew it was something I wanted to do. I love fashion and homewares is a passion of mine and this was a chance to create something of my own, drawing on all the knowledge I’d built up over the years.”
First of all, that meant designing and organising a total shop refit, including the addition of a first floor homewares section on the first floor, bringing all of Ruth’s experience into play.
“The result is a beautiful store,” Ruth said. “I’ve seen a lot of retail stores over the years, so I know what not to do. But to make a shop your own you need a vision. I wanted to make an environment that people love, that makes them want to stay and buy something, and to come back regularly.”
The all-new Kimora Fashion & Lifestyle opened its doors in an “all singing, all dancing” launch on 30 August 2018 and the response from shoppers was immediate.
“The feedback has been fantastic. People love the new store,” Ruth said. “I’m really proud of the look of the place and I’ve got great staff who stayed with me. They are so enthusiastic and just lovely with customers. But it’s the feedback from customers that makes me most proud, because they love it so much. Every day I get that feedback.”
Ruth is quick to point out, however, that Kimora’s success is not just down to a new look or even to delivering a great customer experience, vital though they are.
“You have got to work hard, there is no shortcut,” she pointed out. “I work seven days a week and you have to have a real passion for it to do that. Otherwise it would be a slog, just a job. But when you genuinely love what you are doing, you put in the time, the care. And you see the results.”
Equally, taking over an existing store is not necessarily the head start it might seem. Although Ruth was lucky enough to retain a fantastic team and the store’s existing loyal customers, there were plenty of hurdles to overcome.
“For one thing, there was a big capital outlay at the start,” she said. “The refit was obviously a big investment and we were closed for a month while it was going on, so you’re down on income too. Then the suppliers initially want payment up front because they don’t yet know you. It takes a bit of time to build up a normal line of credit for stock.”
In turn, that initial investment, along with the ongoing cost of stock, made insurance a priority for Ruth. “Business insurance for me is having reassurance my business is protected against the unexpected. When you put time, effort, love and money into something, you want confidence it’s covered, so you can focus on developing the business and making it even lovelier.”
Finally, Ruth is happy to play a role in the area’s high street resurgence. She’s confident the high street is the best place for Kimora.
“I know all too well that lots of independent retailers struggle,” she said. “But I feel there is a resurgence in independent retail. People are looking for something different and that is what I am trying to achieve. There is a little hub of successful independent businesses here now, which is good for everyone. I’m so pleased and proud to be part of it.”