All Hail the Queen of Shops!

January 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

Now I don’t watch a lot of TV these days but Mary Portas never fails to keep me entertained.  She is inspirational, entrepreneurial, motivated and a complete genius!  To put in plainly, I want her career.

If you didn’t catch her new show this evening on channel 4, I’ll give you a quick synopsis:  Mary Portas (retail genius) goes undercover on the UK’s high street and makes the discovery of discoveries – that Primark, H&M and Pilot are not providing a decent level of customer service.  Pilot was the focus of Mary’s energies and the company was in dire need of a kick up the bum, and I quote: “Shall I go & see if that woman’s alright”, say’s one hair twiddling, gum-chewing sales assistant to her supervisor, “Nah, she’ll live” was the reply.  Boy oh boy, Mary really had her work cut out for her.  So off she went to see the MD who turned out to be a profit driven, delusional, man.  To cut a long programme short, Mary convinced the MD to give the customer more of an experience by giving the fitting rooms a much needed facelift,  and in turn motivating the staff to give better customer service.  The concept works of course and is rolled out to Pilot’s other 42 stores.  I’ll wait with baited breath to see how that goes…

Mary really has hit the nail on the head, as a consumer nation we have been blinded into thinking that low pricing ensues poor or completely non existent customer service.  I am guilty of this.  But the reality is that there are disgruntled shoppers everywhere.  So according to Mary – and if I were you I’d do everything she says – we should take a stand!  Following her advice, if you don’t receive adequate service with a smile – ask to speak to the manager.  Be bold, frank and state clearly that the service you have received, or not received as the case may be, isn’t good enough.  Put your purse away, and walk out the door.

While this is good advice and clearly what you deserve as a customer of a multi-million pound profit grossing retailer, why not give the sales assistant a smile back.  A little bit of respect goes a long way and I’m sure that a once unwilling assistant will be on-hand to help you if you give them the chance.  It seems simple that further training and improvements in the service a retailer provides not only benefits it’s customers – who are parting with their hard earned cash – but helps to motivate it’s staff too.

Retailers have a lot to learn from the king of customer service, John Lewis.  They install a basic 3 minute timeframe within which sales assistants must approach the customer.  The sales assistants are always knowledgeable and helpful in their advice.  While another surprising high street retailer doesn’t work so hard on the approach, Poundland never fail to impress me with their cheery smiles and friendly patter at the cash desk.  If I were to list all the retailers who have failed to impress me in the customer service stakes I would quite literally be over my word count.  Primark are at the top of my list given their shoddy stores, filthy fitting rooms and quite frankly appalling service.  Let’s hope Mary Portas gives them what for next week on her secret shopping expeditions!

Have you experienced superior customer service in an unexpected environment or have you been left blown away by a serious lack of it?  Let me know your thoughts.


Ooo, er, missus!

January 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us and whether you’re single, looking, attached or other it’s good to – dare I say it – get in on the action…

While I’m not in favour of the commercialisation of saints or confessing your love for another only once a year,  I do enjoy being spoiled.  All feminism thrown to the wayside – traditionally men are supposed to spoil while the fairer sex are spoiled.  However, the internet presence in our daily lives encourages the use of methods requiring little, if any, effort come the 14th of February.  Although I’m not much of a traditional romantic, I am still traditional and would prefer not to find a token gesture e-card in my inbox come the big day.  It’s simple, no gimmicks – a home-made card and I’m anyone’s.  Men however don’t want flowers or chocolates and I’m pretty sure only the more sensitive demographic will appreciate a card.  But I think I’ve hit the nail on the head here, and I really had to think hard.  One word.  Lingerie.  I dream of silk, lace, frills and frou frou while most men are bound to choose crotchless over crocheted.  So, why not buy your own lingerie?  This leads to feeling good about yourself and securing numerous favours in the long run.  Eek, I here you scream.

Listen, It’ll be alright on the night.  Gok  rattles on and on about how to look good naked and I think it’s safe to say he’s proven – while annoying the hell out of us – that once you accept and learn to love the skin you’re in, you radiate confidence and poise on the outside.  I have so many beautiful friends who go on and on about minor body issues which in turn interferes with their daily lives and what they will or will not wear.  We all have them; scars, stretchmarks, pimples, puckering – myself included – but I find that focusing on and shouting about these imperfections eats away at you, while not improving them at all!!  Why waste your breath.  You are not your imperfections they are merely part of you.  Perfection is generally the ultimate goal among us gals, and as I write this I’m sure there are many women vigorously spooning Special K into their unsatisfied mouths.  And If you are on a diet, February the 14th is the perfect opportunity to showcase your bod.  A halfway point if you will.  Have I convinced you yet?!

Though impractical and no alternative to the humble seamless t-shirt bra, I love the idea of a 1920’s bullet bra & French knickers combo a la Madonna circa 1980.  If you don’t fancy donning an authentic pair of panties from the likes of the salvation army or your local vintage emporium, What Katie Did has some beautiful replica vintage satin sets.  SockBox is a haven for all things girly from the thigh down but if you are handy with a needle and thread why not add bunches of chiffon roses to existing hold-ups to make them more unique or simply stitch on a bow.  Try dyeing and adding satin roses to the straps of an outdated bra to give it a new lease of life, put on some pearls and you could be Carrie Bradshaw.  Should you wish to be Bradshaw.  Enjoy!

Teaching your old clothes new tricks.

January 15, 2011 § Leave a comment


Originally uploaded by stof enzo

Although I studied clothing design at University level, and have learnt the skills you need to make your own clothing, right from the paper to the finished product – I much prefer to customise existing articles! Maybe I’m just lazy, as customisation certainly involves less skill, but I find it provides just as much scope for creativity. Modifying something you already own – that might just be ‘alright’ – and transforming it into something really unique that you love gives you a pure sense of satisfaction and doesn’t cost the earth. If anything, you are saving money and instead of trailing the high street for a new outfit, a bit of tweaking here and there works a treat! Customising comes in especially handy during the transitional change from Winter to Summer or vice versa. Although remember, once you’ve turned those winter skinny jeans into summer cut offs – there’s no going back!! I think ought to start this topic by introducing what I think is the perfect ‘customisation kit’:

SCISSORS – of the sharp, fabric cutting and dress-making orientated variety. You can find a well priced, good quality pair from HobbyCraft.

WONDERWEB – generally thought of as the generic term for iron on hemming tape, an ingenious invention that allows you to hem shabbily cut garments with ease. It should be available from your local haberdashery and can also be found in John Lewis. A wonderful alternative to a needle & thread!

SAFETY PINS – in all sizes, they are ideal for temporary adjustments. I’ve been on many a night out whereby my outfit has been held together by masses of safety pins – not ideal if you’re travelling by aeroplane and need to get through security!!

ODDS & ENDS BOX – buttons, transfers, broken jewellery, ribbon, scraps of fabric – a treasure trove of goodies!!

If you’re struggling with an outfit or are having an “I’ve got nothing to wear” crisis, get your customisation kit out and get creative!! Once you’ve started customising your clothes, there’ll be no looking back and before you know it you’ll be adding puff sleeves to a plain-tee and pintucks to a well-worn skirt.  If you have any ideas of items that could be added to my current customisation kit, please drop me a line! 

In my next ramblings, I will be transforming an oversized charity shop bought heritage hacking jacket into something more unique and exciting that will be a great addition to your current wardrobe…

New year, new start.

January 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

So, in my quest to create the perfect wardrobe I have decided to de-clutter my own somewhat… Much like the fine line and tough call between best before and expiry dates, clothes too have a shelf life. When you’ve put it on, thought about wearing but swiftly strewn to the floor on more than one occasion then it’s time to take a trip to your nearest charity shop or sell a much-loved, but entirely wasted wardrobe item. It’s dead stock and it’s taking up vital space. If you cant see the wool for the tweeds…GET SELLING!

Ihave also decided that I will only deserve a new piece of clothing, which will contribute to my 30 piece capsule wardrobe, once I’ve sold another. I may only purchase items that are, pound for pound, the equivalent of what I have accumulated in my eBay-sales generated paypal account – the balance of which currently sits at £124.42. I have had many an eBay related chat lately, mainly because it takes over your life, what with the listing; watching, responding, posting and feedback giving – sometimes I wonder if it’s all worth it for the 0.99p profit I generally make on most items.

I am currently caught up in a dispute over ’Grey patent granny chic vintage style Gabor loafers brogues flats’ namely; shoes. I’ll do anything, ANYTHING to avoid bad feedback but I’m losing the will to live. I also had to sit an eBay exam recently for describing a ‘chanel-esque bag’ as exactly that.  Moreover, much like bread, we seem to be suffering from parcel paper shortages so I need to find a solution to that, and soon. I know brown paper was perfect for wrapping Christmas parcels, perhaps with a wee tartan bow, but seriously people – some of us have a business to run and those bubble wrap envelopes just aren’t economical. But we’ll see how the next batch goes…  Anything that doesn’t sell on first attempt will be re-listed but failing a second chance offer will be sent packing off to my charity shop of choice, Shelter, and hopefully into the hands of a new owner who will cherish the item I so wistfully abandoned to the wayside. This way, I feel like I really am recycling my wardrobe.

I’m getting rid of pieces that I know are very cool and would sell very well in a vintage shop but don’t quite qualify as wall-art. And I have held onto items purely for their aesthetical value… on a hanger… on a wall. Weird. Sometimes on a hanger…on a picture. Weirder. My chosen piece is a gorgeous piece by Christopher Kane for Topshop circa 2005 in pastel peach reminiscent of the Edwardian age, with a modernist flash of neon green in the oversized zip. But we all have our own take on art. Funnily enough this dress was bought from eBay in the first place. But it looks great, and can be yet another storage solution to consider if you’re running out of room in the usual places where clothes are stored.  Please remember though the risks associated with placing pretty dresses out in the open, namely those fibre eating bastards we call moths. You can buy mini lavender bags from John Lewis and attach them to the hanger to keep the pests at bay! Happy selling!!

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