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16 June 2015

Six tips for running a flagship store

Maria Grachvogel is a luxury women’s fashion brand with a unique point of view of empowering women through effortless, intelligent fashion. Founder and designer Maria is a current participant on the Library’s Innovating for Growth programme where she is working with brand strategists, among others, to take her business to the next level.

Maria opened her first flagship store in September 2001 to fulfil a growing demand for her designs. In 2011 she moved the shop to a three storey Victorian townhouse which also incorporates the Atelier which brings the whole team closer to the women who wear the clothes. Maria quickly saw the value of a retail store to reflect and reinforce the brand as well as provide valuable feedback directly from the customer. Here she gives her six top tips for successfully running a flagship store. 

Paul raeside - 5154
Source: Maria Grachvogel


1. Retail is detail

When a client buys into a brand they are buying not only the product but also the story behind the brand. It is therefore important that the environment of your flagship store tells your story- says something about who you are and the personality of the brand.

Our brand is effortless, empowering glamour. Women always comment on how amazing they feel in our collections and how many compliments they receive. This is because we focus on how something feels and functions as well as how it looks; therefore it was important to me that my store has a sense of intimacy where a woman can feel totally comfortable. The limestone floor and simple, open space work well with the inherent allure of my collection.

We have specially angled mirrors in the changing rooms, which our clients love as they show how you look from the back as well as the front and this demonstrates the thoughtfulness that goes into every aspect of the experience. I have used my signature artwork print technique to paint furniture, curtains and wall panels and use original Art Deco furniture to display accessories - all of which reflect the intimacy of our brand. It is important that your team are also equally passionate and informed about the brand story and the unique selling point of the brand as well as each product within the store.

During the Innovating for Growth programme, I attended a branding workshop which helped me to see how the brand behaviours should be part of the detail in the store. One way of doing this is by incorporating brand awareness into training with your team. I have now started, to not only train on the values of the brand, but I ask the team to consider how the client might perceive our interaction at every touchpoint and look at ways we can improve from the way we contact clients, how the team present themselves, how we are with a client in store, to the way we package the clothes. 

Model modelling Maria Grachvogel garments
Source: Maria Grachvogel

2. Customer service is everything

Your customers are the most important asset of any business. For most luxury retail businesses 80% of your sales are from the top 20% of your customers. Many of our clients have shopped with us for 20 years and each year the client list grows, mainly by recommendation from within our client base. Therefore nurturing those relationships, listening to customer feedback, learning about their needs and timely follow up are all essential to customer satisfaction.

I train my team to listen and then ask questions to find out more and we record customer comments on our daily report. These, along with any comments/ feedback from emails or other client interaction are discussed and distilled within our team meetings. 

Maria Grachvogel store layout
Source: Maria Grachvogel

3. Marketing is key

In any retail business, marketing is very important to attract new customers. We have regular events both for our existing clients, but also in collaboration with like-minded brands to build brand awareness and attract new customers too.

We are a luxury brand so we tend to use personal phone calls and emails to invite people to our events or let our top clients know about products they would like. We also send regular marketing emails which often highlight key pieces from the season or inform about new collections and we use social media to let our clients know what is happening in the store on a regular basis. In addition to this, we look for opportunities to increase our sales outside of the UK with London Fashion Week playing an important part in our marketing mix as it builds brand awareness globally. 

Model modelling Maria Grachvogel Red dress
Source: Maria Grachvogel

4. Manage your inventory

Fashion is seasonal, so excellent stock management is very important. This involves checking sell-through data, analysing the products that are selling well, buying these back into the store if necessary and using sell-through data to inform future buys. Most Point of Sale (POS) systems have sell-through analysis within the system, but you can also easily create a spreadsheet for sell-through which is simply updated daily/ weekly. This should be checked back to actual stock to ensure the data is accurate and we look at ours constantly for reorder opportunities and monthly for analysing how we are doing relative to previous years and checking we are on target and have sufficient stock. 

Maria Grachvogel store interior design and layout
Source: Maria Grachvogel

5. Monitor and manage your data

We analyse footfall, conversion rates, sell-through and we also examine the reason the client came in and purchased. Was it because of customer follow up, because they loved the window display, they were recommended by an existing client or because of a marketing initiative? We have some simple spreadsheets I set up for doing this, where the team simply enter the data and the analysis is done. We discuss the reports weekly in our team meetings and in much more detail monthly, where we properly analyse all the data.

Analysing this kind of information is very helpful to know what is working and what is not and allows you to build on marketing initiatives that are driving sales and monitor client satisfaction (rate of recommendations and sales from follow up) for example.

6. Wow with your window display

Store windows are a very important marketing tool as they can entice people into the store. We always start with a seasonally relevant theme which will create interest from passers by and draws them in. It’s important to consider the composition of the whole window, as well as using colour and silhouette, to create something impactful. We change ours weekly and try and choose a new theme each week and we always go outside and stand back as it allows us to see it from a customer’s perspective.

Retail is a constantly changing environment, so you have to be always evolving, learning and changing to stay ahead. I have found over the years that I have learned so much from speaking with other retailers, both local retailers to understand trends in local clients and footfall and general retailers to exchange ideas and experience. I have found most retailers are very happy to share information, so go and chat with your neighbour, the shop across the way and ensure your network has some great retail mentors. 


Maria Grachvogel store interior design and layout
Source: Maria Grachvogel



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Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund


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