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I lost my battle with the chain store…

I am talking with Sophia, the owner of the boutique with second-hand clothing. She closed the boutique after less than a year of running her own business and she suspended business operations two months later. Problems with the associate, the emergence of competition and dishonest suppliers of the goods contributed to this decision.


What did you do and how long were you in the market?

I ran the boutique with second-hand clothing. Regardless of this I had a full-time job and I brought up my daughter. My company had been present in the market since February 2013 to the end of November 2013. I decided to sell clothes imported from England because these are very popular due to the good quality and attractive price. The choice of clothes has always attracted me, and secondly I was too a frequent client of second hand shops. In the end I decided to start my own boutique and realize my dream.

How did you find clothing suppliers and the point where you sold clothes?

I found the point through a real estate agency because the search for the place on my own did not give me the expected results. I really wanted a good location and good conditions of the place. However, I met disastrous premises on my way and I was losing my time. The broker helped me find the perfect property. The real estate agency became responsible for all the duties which I had so far. The broker took care of all the paperwork. I was looking for suppliers on my own. I gathered information on the Internet and in newspaper advertisements. Personally, I was calling to companies and I started cooperation with them. However, before I found a reliable, good supplier, I had a contact with four wrong ones. All suppliers promised me the good stuff from England, however, I got clothes of average or poor quality. I ordered clothes in the kilograms and the weight was the only issue that agreed with the arrangements. The rest diverged from the assurances and promises they made. I received the goods from Germany and Scandinavia, and I cared mainly for clothing from the UK.

How did you meet the right supplier?

After several unsuccessful orders, I decided to have a direct contact with another supplier and I have to say that I made the right decision. I arranged the meeting, interview and presentation of goods. I met my supplier. The goods and differences in price and quality were presented to me. After that meeting the order fully consistent with the arrangements reached the boutique. After a few months, for the first time I received the goods of very good quality from England.

What contributed to resignation from running of the company?

Mainly the emergence of competition, which had several times bigger sales space, greater choice and lower prices. I lost my battle with the chain store. They were the sales floor, and I was a small boutique. Size of premises in the case of second-hand clothing is of great importance. The sudden increase in the cost of hiring when I renewed the contract was the second decisive factor. This one which I had entered before was binding for a year. The new bid was horrendous and the owner of the property refused to negotiate. I had to give a notice to vacate in November to make it effective in December.

How did you react to the emerging problems?

When I received the information about the appearance of competition I introduced an attractive system of reductions: a hanger for pennies and loyalty cards. The system was successful but due to the lack of consent of my partner I introduced it later than I intended. Unfortunately, in the third month of our collaboration our visions which initially united me and my partner started to be very different. I had a lot of ideas, which my business partner did not approve, or approved too late. In business, there are some situations when decisions cannot be put off. They must be taken immediately to be successful. After three months, I also needed to change the employee. Although I employed the person among close friends, our co-operation was not successful. Selling is not only sitting behind the counter and issuing bills for the purchased goods. So I employed a trusted person who was very involved in the work. The effect was seen immediately. Turnover of the shop was increasing significantly from day to day. In addition, customers were delighted with service. They became attached to my employee. They appreciated her professional advice, smile and openness.

You have a rich experience. Can you tell me what you did well and what you would have done differently?

I did the right thing when I asked for the help of professionals who built a brand image and found a place for me. The Advertising Agency prepared a professional signboard and aesthetic storefront that encouraged Customers to come inside. It also prepared professional leaflets. I created a boutique from scratch and I took care of details such as the choice of colour or odour neutralizing the smell of worn clothing. I organized an advertising campaign very efficiently and effectively. A month before the opening, every week at weekend, we were carrying leaflets around the area. On the opening day 90% of customers came with a leaflet which entitled them to 10% discount. I had good ideas how to cope with the decline in sales but I did not have permission from my business partner. What would I have done differently? First of all I would have employed the right person to this work from the beginning. Professional, committed and open to contact with a customer. I would have decided to have a larger space and I would have avoided partnership at all costs. I would have arranged a direct meeting with a supplier to watch the clothes before ordering goods.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

When you look for the premises, use the help of professionals. Pay a lot of attention to the employment of the right person. What is important is the commitment and whether the offered work is in the area of competence and skills of the employee. If you see that you have made a mistake in employment, do not hesitate to take a decision. Thank an employee for the common time and hire someone who will be involved in work. If you don’t have to do this, don’t decide on a business partner. Sooner or later, your visions will vary. It is necessary to meet with suppliers of goods.

What did you want to achieve by your business and what are you proud of?

I wanted to achieve satisfaction. Despite the fact that the business failed I am proud of myself. I reconciled a lot of obligations. If you want something hard enough, then you will achieve it. I coped with fears that sometimes harried me. Running your own business raises many challenges and problems. This is not the same as full time job.

Thank you for the interview and for the fact that you have shared your experience.

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