The Dressing Room – Successful Independent Retailer… by @DressingRoom1 #IndieRetail

Having started my career in retail and progressing to Store Manager, Area Manager and on to Operations and Buying director for various High Street names I decided it was time to take the plunge and do it for myself after 12 years in the industry.

In May 2005 I opened The Dressing Room in St Albans providing beautiful affordable fashion in a laid back, luxurious environmentwith a fresh, new brand mix.  

The Dressing Room, St Albans

Since then it has been a whirlwind, the store has expanded three times plus an ecommerce branch has been added to the mix.  All in all I am relieved to report that The Dressing Room has been a great success (so far!).

I am often asked if I will mentor people that are thinking about setting up their own store.  My first question is always:

‘Have you ever worked in retail before?’

If the answer is yes, then wonderful – you know what to expect!  If the answer is no, my first piece of advice is always ‘Go and work in a store for a year, then come back to me and tell me if you still want to do this.’  Working in retail is a fabulous career, but it is no easy ride.  You have to be prepared for long hours, 7 day weeks and dealing day in day out with general public (often a pleasure, sometimes not so much.).

The next question…

 ‘Who are you buying for?’

You have to know your customer inside out and the first two seasons are often a bit hit and miss while you discover who your customer really is as opposed to who you thought they were.   Remember, you can’t please everyone, so stick to your key principles and adapt your buying as you learn more about who you customer is and make sure you deliver this promise at all times.

Take time and effort in training your team.  Keep them motivated and informed…

Often, regular customers will only want to be served by you, but as your business grows this will no longer be possible.  So, what about when you are not on the shopfloor?  Take time and effort in training your team.  Keep them motivated and informed and they will be upbeat, energetic and deliver your promise every time.  I hold monthly training sessions with my team and 6 monthly reviews and appraisals.

Keep your store looking fresh and relevant

It is important to keep your store looking fresh and relevant.  I continually re-assess my store.  Do the windows look exciting enough to get people in to the store?  Is the Visual Merchandising up to scratch?  Is there something new to encourage regular customers into the store?  Keep your product moving, if something isn’t working – try re-merchandising it or bring it out again in another month and re-invent it as a fresh  new look.

Control your cash flow.

Controlling this at all times will ensure your business stands the test of time.  Honesty is always the best policy.  Don’t avoid contact if you are struggling to pay a bill – A phone call to negotiate payment over a longer period will put an end to sleepless nights and ensure that you retain the respect of your suppliers.

If you are starting out now then:

You need to factor in your online presence.

People expect you to have a website and it is important to get this right.  My advice is, unless you have plenty of time and money on your hands (highly unlikely), then start with a postcard type site.  A website that will communicate who you are, what you do and where to find you.  An ecommerce site is a beast that will take your focus away from your bricks and mortar store as it requires so much manpower to keep updated and is an unnecessary drain on your cash flow in the first year.

My final piece of advice to any budding Independent store owners….

‘Owning your own store is the most rewarding experience and I love every minute of it, but to do it properly be prepared for some hard work!’

This blog was written by Deryane Tadd, proud owner (and rightly so!) of The Dressing Room, an impressive independent fashion boutique in central St Albans. 



About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
This entry was posted in Blog-a-day for Indie Retail, Independent Retailer Month 2011, The Retail Champion and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Dressing Room – Successful Independent Retailer… by @DressingRoom1 #IndieRetail

  1. Umesh Samani says:

    Interesting article and ALL True about going into business/ self employment. It’s not everyones cup of tea and a lot people looking from the outside think “I’d love to do what you do ” but don’t really understand it all. Great success story- wishing you continued success.

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