‘Brands have listened’: The Dressing Room’s Deryane Tadd on buying in uncertain times

Deryane Tadd

Since opening its doors in 2005, St Albans indie The Dressing Room has won multiple awards for its outstanding brand mix and customer experience. Here founder Deryane Tadd reveals how she’s steering the business through various widespread fashion retail challenges – as well as a devastating cyber attack…

How is business at the moment?

Last year was certainly challenging at The Dressing Room due to many factors.  However, I’m positive for 2024 as I have responded to the change in how my customers are dressing and have looked at all aspects of my business and tightened up my edit. I’m confident in my new season collections and can already see that it is hitting the right spot for my customers. They are loving the new season collections which have a more ‘buy now, wear now’ feel than last year.  Brands have listened and reacted to the change in seasonality and have produced collections that we need, so 2024 is off to a good start.  Thank goodness!

What has been selling well in-store?

It’s all about separates right now.  Whether that is a great top back with some new denim or a more tailored look.  Soft, Parisian chic is back from brands like Ba&sh and Louise Mischa with their gorgeous blouses and quilted jackets.  Discreet chic from Scandi cool brands is also performing very well – tailored waistcoats worn back with cool girl denim and a logo tee is exactly what my customers want right now.

Relaxed, laid back cool from Rails is always a winner and then there is also that very feminine and elegant look from brands like Dea Kudibal that never goes out of style; it always looks sharp and elegant.

Inside The Dressing Room

How about online?

Online follows the same pattern as in store.  My customers are invested in how we style our collections.  They follow our lead and take their inspiration from all the elements we have on our site, like the inspiration hub and styling tips on the look book, social and blog.

How have you approached buying for AW24?

I am following the same approach as I did for SS24 and AW23.  Tighter edits that sell out quickly with a more seasonal approach to when they hit the store.  I buy what feels right and what I feel my customer will love.  Right now, she wants newness and not repetition.  It has to be something that she really ‘has to have.’ Gone are the days of buying things just because they performed well in the past.  I am having to really analyse and think about what I am putting into the store, particularly because autumn has become a very short season now in fashion.  It’s warm until October and then the madness of discounting kicks in on the high street from November and I feel the season never fully goes back to full price across the board.  It’s crazy and beyond frustrating as it’s killing what used to be the strongest season.  I never discount until after Christmas but it does make for a challenging season when all around is on sale.

Which shows have you visited and what are your thoughts on the latest collections?

I attended CIFF and Scoop this season.  I am seeing some very strong collections from a lot of my brands and sadly some that are struggling to adapt to the changing trends. Personally I am loving the sharp, clean lines of the Scandi brands. I think they are getting it just right at the moment. 

What are you finding most challenging currently as a small business owner?

There have been many challenges in recent years as we know.  In 2023 it felt like the year of the cyber gremlins for me.  The Dressing Room was hit with the swan retail hack along with many others, which impacted our stock and EPoS systems and is still ongoing to some degree. 

I was then hit with a major attack on my website, which has had far reaching effects for my online trade.  Cyber crime is not something that I am well versed in how to deal with and I have to put my trust in my third party partners which is difficult when you are used to solving any issues yourself!  It has certainly been challenging and takes my focus away from the day to day running of the business and buying which is intense at the best of times!

Outside the store in St Albans

Are you running any in-store events to help drive more physical sales?

We have had some fantastic events in 2023 and are planning our 2024 ones as we speak.  For march we have a fantastic Spring event to kick off the season with a collaboration with Rachel Jackson Jewellery who will be setting up their amulet bar in store just in time for Mother’s Day.  This will be followed by a pop up event with Woden sandals with some exciting activations going on it store on the day, plus many more exciting events to come.

In 2023 we had some great in store events with some founder meet and greets with Dea Kudibal, Jeff Abrams from Rails and Becky Hosmer from Anna Beck.  Our customers loved meeting the people behind the brands as it gives them a great insight into the collections.

What is your strategy for the SS24 season?

Keep things interesting, provide amazing and different product and deliver it with an exceptional shopping experience, whether that is in store or online.  I invest time and energy in training and nurturing my team so they can help deliver great results.

The Dressing Room’s team

How optimistic are you feeling about fashion retail this year?

It’s early days for 2024 but at The Dressing Room we have come out of a very challenging situation and I now feel equipped to deal with making the very best of this year despite the fact that challenges remain.  The online attack and cost of living crisis have made me look closely and review all areas of my business and make changes where needed.  Above all, I am really passionate about the collections that will be coming into store this season and happy to have started the year in a cleaner stock position so I feel confident for a good year that will happen through sheer hard work!

What’s making you feel excited as a small business owner right now?

It is the ability to be nimble and adapt to change.  This is the most powerful tool that we have as small business owners.