Feature

Reaching Out to Regional Retailers

Deb CaldwellDeb Caldwell is a country chic at heart, and it’s this inherent `no fuss’ and understanding nature combined with her experienced background in the retail sector, that made her the perfect person for the new Fashion ExposedRegional Ambassador role. In between meetings and driving cross country, Fashion Exposed Online asked Deb about her new role, how the industry has changed since 1984 when she first started out, and the community spirit of the country retailers.

You started out in fashion as a junior sales assistant in the dress fabrics section of fabric wholesaler Spotlight in 1984, then sales rep, agent and importer for the last 10 years – how has this experience prepared you for your current role with Fashion Exposed as regional ambassador?

I think as I have worked on both sides of the retail counter, with retail and wholesale, gives me a well rounded view of the industry. I understand the challenges from the sample concept stage all the way through to the end consumer.

So much has happened in the fashion industry since 1984 when you first started, how has the industry changed since then? What are some of the biggest differences between then and now?

Fashion is ever evolving. There are many more young designers now days who have shown their talents on our catwalks in Australia and Internationally. The great thing with fashion is “anything goes” We have so many beautiful fabrics, textures and colours to work with and combine into works of art. But, like many successful industries, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to glance back at past successes. The saying “every thing old – is new again” is testimate to that. For example the current sales on animal print has been phenomenal. Even the regional retailers are enjoying sales on this classic print. Our designers have cleverly taken an “old fav” and given it new life with a new, modern, fun look, that’s the great thing about fashion.

dogwindowYou mentioned in the recent Ragtrader interview that while times have been especially tough during the drought etc for regional retailers, they have survived due to the unique community spirit of banding together and supporting local – do you think there is something in that for all of us?

By supporting local and independent retailers in city areas too?Absolutely! Unlike the regioanal consumer, the city consumers are spoilt for choice. If the item you are serching for can not be found at Doncaster, it is not too far to nip over to Chadstone or into the city.

Online shopping is a massive growth area, are there many regional retailers embracing this? And how successful are they? 

There was not a large percentage of retailers I spoke to that had their own web sites. There was quite a bit of talk about “looking into it” but many still enjoy having the personal touch when it comes to fashion. Unless you are wanting to buy a Bonds white T-shirt where size and quality is consistant, most women want to see-feel-touch and definitely try on!

How does distance, time and climate affect those who work in regional retail? Or do women who live in the country tend to spend more at one time, even if their shopping trips aren’t as often? What are the typical shopping habits of a regional shopper to those in the city?

The further afield you travel in the country, the less frequently the regional lady will shop, due to distance. If their local shopping area is within an hour of home, most will head into town once per week and sepnd several hours in town.

What was the overall feedback from the regional retailers who attended the recent Fashion Exposed in Melbourne?

“WOW” I think the whole Fashion Exposed experience was very positive. Many people commented on being greeted at the door by FE staff and Myself with a Buyers Guide, directions, information and a smile, was a nice way to start their day. Many people took advantage of the many seminars, work shops and guest speakers and were delighted this was a complimentary service. Those who wanted to head over to Premier thought the shuttle service was fantastic.

What was your favourite part of the role?

Meeting the retailers and visiting so many wonderful stores in beautiful country towns. We really do have a lot to offer consumers in regional areas.

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