After working in various buying and operational roles for other companies including a buyer at Harris Scarfes, Jacquie decided it was `time to do this retail thing for myself’.
So she did. In 2008 Jacqui purchased the `Kennedys at Forestway’ Boutique.
Founded in 1971 by the Kennedys’ Family, the boutique offers casual co-ordinates for the `35 to ageless’ bracket with quality, wearability and value for money a top priority.
“We truly believe that fashion is an expression of who you really are and each season we seek to reflect our customer’s mood, by offering her exclusivity, edginess and elegance,” said Jacqui.
Given her extensive experience in the industry, we took five with Jacqui to discuss some of the biggest challenges she’s faced in retail over the years; the real impact of online in-store; and the power of their VIP club.
What have been some of the biggest changes in retail since you first started? And how have they impacted your business?
I thing the biggest change has been the flood of overseas fashion players into the Australian market. Whether they are opening brick-and-mortar shops or establishing online fashion sites they have definitely changed the landscape of Australian retail.
We hear constant media reports of the `doom and gloom’ for Australian retailers, especially with the rise of online shopping – as someone who is working in the industry, can you give us your account from the frontline? How has bricks and mortar retail been affected by e-commerce?
Look, I think the retail market has definitely been affected by online retail. However, I do believe that the Australian woman especially in my market loves the in-store experience. Customer service is everything to us, product knowledge is king, you cannot offer that experience on-line.
Doom and gloom and the media reports are just a distraction, I ignore it!
You have a bricks and mortar boutique primarily, have you considered launching an online store to complement that?
After numerous requests from our country customers we have decided to take the Kennedys brand and vision on-line. The Kennedys on-line store launched in August, my Son Matthew was bought into the business late last year to concentrate on all aspects of social media and to set up our on-line store.
Kennedys has a Facebook page, we also use Instagram to promote our new season deliveries and our in-store promotions. It amazes me how our customers and our team in-store have embraced all aspects of our social media sites.
It is definitely the new way to communicate.
Before opening your own retail, you were a buyer at Harris Scarfes, how did this experience prepare you for your current career?
You know I was lucky, I crossed over from buying to retail operations twice in my career, in doing so it gave me a very broad understanding of the day-to-day running of a retail operation.
When I was at Harris Scarfe the buying office was above the store below. Everyday between 12 and 2pm we had to sell on the floor. That was smart, it taught me to understand who my customer was, what she wanted, and it also made me so much better as a fashion buyer and a retailer.
What experience and insights from your buying career can you pass on to other retailers?
I don’t really ever offer advice to people, I think at the end of the day we are all doing our best and what works for me might not be right for other people.
What are you doing in-store to attract new customers and establish relationships with existing clientele? Do you host in–store parades?
Kennedys has a 2,000 plus strong VIP Club, this is utilised on a fortnightly basis to promote what is new and exciting in-store. In-store parades and parades off-site for certain customers are essential. In-store you have a captured audience and off-site you tend to gain a lot of new customers.
When you are faced with new challenges in the retail industry, who do you consult? Do you have a group of retailers you regularly speak with? how does this help? Do you recommend this for other retailers?
I am lucky I have met and remained friends with a lot of people in retail over the years. It is important to have a mentor or a group of like-minded people that you can discuss things with.
Retail is changing all the time and I think we all need to be able to tap into other people’s ideas and experiences.
There is a strong message in the fashion industry that states`innovate or die’ – do you think this statement is true? How do you innovate your retail store to compete with the increasing competition of online and overseas retailers (zara, topshop etc) setting up in Australia?
I really just stay focused on my business and my customer, she is the key, she dictates to me on a daily basis what is wrong and right. My customer is savvy she lets me know when I am on the right track and is brutal when I lose sight of her.
Innovate or die maybe, I think more importantly don’t let the likes of the overseas and online retailers distract you. Don’t stick your head in the sand, they are there no doubt about it, but don’t lose sight of what you set out to achieve and don’t ever lose sight of what your customer needs.
Our VM is changed on a weekly basis. It is very important that I keep my stock turning over quickly. The Kennedys stores are not in high traffic areas, we have the same loyal customer who visits us weekly. She wants to see something new and exciting on each visit. She also wants to be excited and enticed and the way to do this, for me, is through my windows and front tables.
Can you reveal some of your VM tips? What works well for your store?
We have key items every season in our stores. They are usually very keenly priced basics. They are always merchandised together, and are always price pointed.
You have been a regular visitor to Fashion Exposed over the years – why have you chosen this trade event to do your buying?
Fashion Exposed offers me a chance to find new and exciting suppliers under one roof. Over the years I have found some wonderful new product ranges at this event that I have had great success with.
What are the highlights of your visits to Fashion Exposed? Is it also a key networking opportunity for you?
I really like the seminars, you get to hear from leading retailers across all genres of the industry, with expert advice on so many different levels.
At the Melbourne event this year I attended `Digital technology and fashion in Australia’, `Social Media to increase online sales’ and `The art of brand building’.
I really appreciate the opportunity to up-skill at all areas of my business and this really gives me the opportunity to do so.
For more information on Fashion Exposed events, visit fashionexposed.com