As it’s coming up to Xmas and we have the Tring Together shop local day on 9th December we thought it no better time to celebrate some of our local retailers in Tring.
There was no contest of who should appear first. When starting out with the blog and looking for subjects to interview, Erika was recommended multiple times. She is well loved in Tring, for her warm, bubbly personality, but also her shop, Lolly and Mitch which is jam packed full of fashion you won’t find anywhere else. In fact she takes customer service to another level and will open up her shop at any time if her loyal customers require it and would never dream of seeing a Friday out without pouring the Prosecco. Yep, she’s our kind of girl and we’re definitely long overdue a chat.
Erika – tell us ALL your secrets….;-)
How long have you been running Lolly and Mitch and what did you do previously?
I opened Lolly and Mitch 3 years ago – in fact we just celebrated our third birthday over the Tring Christmas Festival weekend! I’ve been in the fashion industry the whole of my working life. I started out at 16, although I would say my love affair with all things Fashion started at a much earlier time, probably birth!!
I started working in Oxford Street in retail at 16, I absolutely loved the buzz of working in London. I worked on a concession for a company called Jump Knitwear, their HQ was around the corner from where I worked so I popped round regularly to collect and choose my own stock. I got to know the owner and MD of the company really well and it wasn’t long before they offered me a full time job working Monday to Friday at their head office. In a short space of time I became the PA to the M.D. and found myself in charge of over 100 concessions nationwide, all by the grand old age of 19! I stayed there for many happy years until having my son Barney in 1997. I stayed in touch with the business and around 7 years ago I set up a wellington boot company called MUdDZ – we designed crystal embellishments such as skulls and bows to adorn boring basic black Wellington boots! We had a huge following from girls on big reality TV shows such as TOWIE and Geordie Shore, and our boots were a big hit at festivals. Sadly we found production problematic as we had them made in China, so stopped producing around 4 years ago. We still get asked for them on a regular basis, in fact Denise van Outen text my husband just before Glastonbury to ask if she could buy a new pair . Who knows maybe MUdDZ will make a return again one day and you’ll see them in Lolly and Mitch!!
What do you like best about running a fashion boutique?
There are so many things I love about running Lolly and Mitch, pretty much everything except doing the accounts! I love buying and attending trade shows, visiting agents showrooms eager to see what next seasons hottest styles will be and which ones will suit Lolly and Mitch customers. But, without a doubt, my absolute most favourite thing about having my own boutique is the interaction with my wonderful customers. There is nothing better than seeing someone’s face light up when you find them the perfect outfit and they look in the mirror and fall in love with it! Fashion is fun and frivolous but can also be incredibly empowering. Knowing you look great is like wearing armour – it helps you to present yourself to the world at your very best and adds hugely to your confidence when you know you look great. I love it when my customers leave my shop with a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
What’s been your best memory so far of Lolly and Mitch?
My favourite memory of working at Lolly and Mitch is so easy to choose. I had a couple about to get married and they came in to look for a dress for her to wear to a pre-wedding dinner. The bride-to-be fell in love with a stunning Rebecca Rhoades maxi dress, and in fact she decided she loved it so much she wanted to get married in it instead of the traditional wedding dress they’d already bought! Her husband-to-be said they couldn’t afford to buy another dress and she left crestfallen. Unbeknown to her he called me after they left and arranged to bring her down after-hours to buy the dress the next day as he wanted it to be a surprise! That same evening she called me and said she loved the dress so much she wanted to buy it anyway. So that I didn’t ruin his surprise I had to pretend I’d sold it to someone else! Oh I felt awful! It was such a relief to see her the following day and reveal that I’d saved it for her! She was so excited I could hear her screaming in the street when she realised where she was heading! We popped open some bubbles and toasted the happy couple. She looked absolutely beautiful on her wedding day wearing her Lolly and Mitch outfit!
What are the most challenging aspects of running a high street business?
These are challenging times on the high street – online shopping and constant discounting by chain stores makes life very difficult for independents. As independents can’t possibly compete with these huge companies I try to distance myself as much as possible from them by buying small quantities from brands that are not easily available everywhere. This means that the stock we have at Lolly and Mitch is more exclusive, quite often you won’t find a stockist of the same brand for at least 20 miles. This lessens the chance of bumping into someone else wearing the same outfit, which in a small market town is essential! Customer service is key to me, I’m happy to open out of hours if our opening hours are not convenient and I’m happy to give one-on-one styling advice to all our customers. We quite often have a bottle of fizz open, especially on Fridays, which make for a happy bubbly shopping experience!!
What’s the best fashion advice you could give to anyone shopping in your store?
The best advice I would give anyone shopping at Lolly and Mitch would be to try things on that are a little out of their comfort zone. You would be surprised how many customers fall in love with a dress or outfit that they wouldn’t have chosen for themselves. Shop with an open mind and be open to suggestions, we have seen the same style on many different shapes and sizes and if we suggest something the chances are it will look fantastic. We’re always completely honest about what we think of an outfit and would never say something looks great if it really doesn’t. We want our customers to come back again and again because they love our clothes and our customer service. We really do get amazing feedback and I count myself very lucky that we’re based in Tring where local people are so supportive and they really do embrace the “shop local” ethic – for that I’m so grateful!
Cheers to that Erika!