Five Minutes with ... Paul Turner-Mitchell
After winning the Independent Retailer Awards, planning expansion and developing an online boutique to compliment the bricks and mortar store Paul Turner-Mitchell of 25Ten Boutique in Rochdale took five minutes to talk to TFN.
The Fashion Network: Can you tell us more about your latest success, scooping Best Independent Retailer and Best Business overall awards at Rochdale Business Awards 2010/11?
PTM: This year the awards process involved three stages. Local businesses and shops had to self-nominate and, following the application process, all businesses were ‘mystery shopped’ and scored on various aspects of the mystery shopper’s experience, along with this, members of the public were also able to vote for their favourite shop or business in each categories in the local media. A panel of expert judges then met to determine the winners.
The awards (that have been running for 4 years) mean a lot to us because it shows that it’s not only the judges that have given us a vote of confidence but the public too. It’s been a really tough year for all traders with very testing economic conditions. But we’ve worked incredibly hard to build our business whilst championing the town, because a strong town centre benefits everyone. Relocating our business, expanding our collections and making a big commitment to Rochdale at a time when everyone was advising us to tread cautiously, was the best thing we could have done and we’ve had a fantastic response from shoppers.
TFN: Can you tell TFN about your stores planned second floor?
PTM: Our second floor has been formally leased to Rochdale Town Centre Management and will soon be launching a development to support emerging new independent talent.
Using CLG empty shop revival funding to create an “Affleck’s Palace” style model, Rochdale Emporium will open on our second floor for an initial period of 3 years providing a sales area of 1,400 sf. ft. 25 Ten Boutique being, in essence, the ‘anchor’ tenant serving as the major tenant in the building on the ground floor.
By offering short-term flexible leases in ‘ready to occupy’ high quality units on our second floor we’re looking to create a vibrant cluster of exciting emerging indies. The construction of these units is now complete and the whole development is really impressive.
TFN: So, you’re giving the Independents a chance they may not be able to get on their own, how will they compliment 25 Ten?
PTM: For independents to thrive we believe they need to work more closely together in collaborative clusters, establishing the right complimentary blend of diverse talents with a common thread binding it all together. In our case we’re looking at fashion, beauty and indulgence.
Some of the businesses we’re looking to take on might not perform as strongly on their own tucked away in a small unit somewhere off the high street. Being part of a bigger vision surrounded by complimentary businesses that project a distinctive, creative vision will give them a much better chance of succeeding.
We hope they can build their business in Rochdale and eventually go on to take on bigger units within the town centre.
TFN: What do you feel are the main benefits of the Emporium?
PTM: The benefits of the Emporium are twofold a) helping immediately to transform the fortunes of the town centre in the short term pending the regeneration by positively changing public perception through an increased high quality retail offer and b) to give creative people and budding entrepreneurs a ‘foothold’ which otherwise may not be possible given financial constraints for start ups.
Cheetham Street is now generally accepted and regarded as one of the town centre's most popular independent shopping streets with lingerie indie Chantilly as well as Shoes by Laces another boutique style shop offering a beautiful range of footwear. The retailers, within Rochdale Emporium, will enhance and complement the existing neighboring businesses, building strength in-depth, creating a destination with individuality and allowing for co-operation in terms of collective marketing as a niche market/quarter.
I really believe in this vision and concept and, given the issues facing high streets up and down the country, I hope it will eventually be a model that others follow and adopt.
TFN: Are there any other expansion plans for the coming year?
PTM: It really has been a very busy time for us with the relocation late last year, the Rochdale Emporium project and its imminent launch. Whilst trading has surpassed expectation our feet are firmly on the ground and we are bracing ourselves for difficult and challenging times ahead. With potentially 9,480 stores closing in 2011, this year, it is essential that we consolidate and ensure that the footings in place are strong. I am fearful that only the fittest will survive so, for this year, it is about fine tuning, taking stock, continuing to create awareness of the boutique, driving sales and building upon what we have achieved so far.
TFN: What is the next accomplishment you would like to achieve?
PTM: I think we have achieved a lot in just over 3 years. There have been many obstacles and hurdles that we have had to overcome. The only real accomplishment is to be regarded by your customers as the best and continually work towards that goal by excelling in customer service
TFN: How do you define your focus, offline vs online?
PTM: Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day and with the relocation late last year our primary focus has been our bricks and mortar store. Our online presence accounts for about 13% of total sales but we do have plans in the pipeline to optimize the site, make it easier to navigate and ensure it is more interactive in order to drive forward our online presence.
TFN: Are there plans to develop the online side of your business or will you remain primarily retail?PTM: You only need to look at the retail sales figures for May 2011 and the online headline figures that the average weekly value for internet retail sales in May was £527.3 million with the internet contributing 9.4% of total retail sales and, with the forecast set to reach as much as 35% of total retail sales by 2020, this is an indication of the massive growth potential of the web. I see this as just the beginning of the next evolutionary step in fashion retailing as we look to build upon and develop our online presence.
Words by Adelle Doughty, images courtesy of 25Ten Boutique
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