Shop talk: Velvet Ladieswear founder Deborah McDermott on retailing in Ramsbottom

Deborah McDermott, founder of Ramsbottom-based indie group Velvet Ladieswear, reveals the latest ongoings behind her online and bricks-and-mortar business…

How is business at the moment?

We have been trading very positively in comparison to last year’s figures, which were phenomenal on the back of the pandemic. The last three weeks have slowed down a little due to the warmer weather affecting our coat sales and the press constantly reporting bad news around the budget, the cost of living rises and also longer-term recession. But we are remaining positive – we have had events planned to help drive footfall in different ways and these are helping drive extra sales through the store.

What are you selling most of in store and online?

The most popular brands around this time are Barbour for wax jackets, jumpers and gifts and Joules has also been popular due to heavy discounting. In terms of products, dresses have still been very good for us and continue to perform well. Customers are looking for outfits for evenings out, tops with a bit of bling, some skinny jeans or pleather trousers too. Pyjamas always sell well at this time of year and our new brand The Night Store is proving to be popular.

How is footfall in your physical stores?

Footfall is down slightly but our average transaction value is up. Customers that are out are spending and don’t seem to be too concerned about price: if they want it, they are having it. Less gifting has been bought early at our events – customers were buying for themselves or their friends but choosing clothing rather than gift items.

How about online – do you think your customers are using both e-commerce and bricks and mortar equally or do they prefer to visit the shops?

Some of our customers check out our online shop before coming to visit the store but the majority of our online sales come from further afield rather than local sales. Our local loyal customers are enjoying being back in-store and touching the product and enjoying the shopping experience. 

How are you preparing for Christmas? Do you have any events or special promotions planned?

We are pretty organised and there’s lots going on in the town to bring footfall in. We took part in the town’s Winedering Tour on Friday 2 December where customers were able to sample wines in different local stores around Ramsbottom as they shopped. We are also trading late night with a Prosecco and Sparkle event where we have other traders coming to sell their products in our stores, plus general late nights every Thursday in December too. We have had our windows painted with King/Queen/Paddington theme by a local artist and the shops look amazing. Another thing we’ve done, which we don’t normally do at this time of the year, was hold a clearance event at our local tennis club. It was brilliant. We cleared volume stock which we had gathered over the past few years, and we could not believe the turn out!

How has 2022 been for you as a business overall?

Overall, we have had great year in 2022. Towards the back end we are seeing some news about recession, Joules going into administration, cost of living rises, and we are very aware that things are going to get tough for a lot of families. But we will keep on smiling, stay positive and watch what happens.

What has been your biggest highlight from the past 12 months?

Our biggest highlights this year are being selected as finalists in the Boutique Star Awards and The Drapers Independent Awards. We also hosted a “welcome back and thank you party” for all our loyal, local customers that supported us throughout the pandemic – that was truly memorable.

What is your biggest challenge currently as an independent fashion retailer?

Our biggest challenges are focusing on the bigger picture within our own branding. This includes continuing to drive sales, building the team and standing back sometimes to manage rather than being in the detail of each day. At the same time, we need to be keeping an eye on what’s going on with our competitors, the latest trends, gaps in the market and anything else we need to be aware of as a small business.

What are your hopes and aspirations for Velvet in 2023?

We would love to win a retail award to recognise all the hard work that’s gone into making our business the success that it is. We were finalists this year and it’s all to play for next year – watch this space!