The hard work pays off – Designer Heaven Re-Opens! (September 1998)

  1. Rob
  2. October 22, 2010 10:30 pm

So, after a pretty gruelling, but very enjoyable nine month project, Bagga Menswear was transformed from a tiny ground floor unit to a very attractive two floor designer Emporium.  Our brand line-up at the timed comprised; Armani Jeans, D&G Jeans, Dolce & Gabbana, Paul Smith Jeans, Hackett, Lacoste, Versace Jeans and a fast-growing Footwear business including Patrick Cox, Jeffery West and Hudson.  Re-opening after the two week closure was a massive buzz, and definitely one of the high points of my 16 years in the business.  I can vividly remember the first day in the revamped shop…. can even remember the first tune that was played on the new sound system! Whenever I hear this tune it transports me back to the opening in September 1998.  This was before the days that bagga stocked G Star Jeans, Diesel Jeans, or Designer Ladieswear….. Top tune – TLC waterfall.

The new shop’s upstairs was the immediate destination for most of our existing customers – the Feng Shui must have been spot-on, as it’s supposedly difficult to get good footfall to the upstairs of a small store, or maybe it was just curiosity.

The whole point of this exercise was to strengthen the business and to allow it to continue to grow, in the shadow of Bluewater Park, which was due to open just 6 months later..  It was quite a challenge.  I’d spent 40 grand on my shopfit, they were spending £400,000,000 on the biggest shopping centre in Europe.  Bring it on, we’re ready!  Takings soared by around 50% as soon as the store was relaunched, and the business was flourishing.

We didn’t open with a sale, but this was the best photo of the “new” Bagga that I could find!  One of my problems is what’s been referred to as a “low boredom threshold”.  Not long after setting something up, I always want something different, newer or better. I’m very good at setting things up, but as soon as they reach the stage where they just need maintaining I lose interest. The buzz of the new store lasted quite a while, and, although we took a hit of about 30% o f our trade for a few months when Bluewater Park finally opened, we held our own, and continued to grow, which was a massive achievement. We had a two-year foray into retailing ladieswear, which was a real education, and, as it turned out, a massive pain in the arse.  Many Menswear retailers assume that running a ladies department or store will happily run alongside the men’s. It doesn’t – it’s as different as having a newsagents, or a cheese shop!

A ladies business is fundamentally different, as are their shopping habits.  Men want easy, convenient shopping with as little effort as possible. For the fairer sex, shopping is more like a sport.  Girls would come in, try pieces on, love them, have the money to spend, look a million dollars, but still shop around, and maybe come back.  Men are in for ten minutes, browse, choose, try (sometimes), buy. Job done!  We had some great ladies brands, including Katherine Hamnett, Jean-Paul Gaultier & Ted Baker. Quite quickly we picked up some really sexy short-order brands including Hunters & Gatherers and a few lower-priced clubby lycra-esque collections.  Despite this, I could see after two or three seasons that the Ladies business was not growing quickly enough, so I decided to knock it on the head.  It was fun while it lasted!!!

After about a year trading the new store, I had itchy feet, and planned a change to the brand mix.  The trend in Menswear was becoming a lot more casual, I thought, so I decided to drop D&G, Exte and Dolce & Gabbana Jeans, and to bring in Diesel Jeans and G Star Jeans.  This was quite a radical move, as a huge part of the budget had been spent on the Italian brands, and there were big gaps that needed filling.  My gut feeling paid off, and the denim focus began to work very, very well.  Also at this time I was trialling some great smaller brands such as German brand Aim Kei.  Looking back at some of the brands we’ve had, I wish I’d kept a piece from each as a kind of Designer brand diary.  I remember when we stocked YSL shirts – these were absolutely phenomenal, we were selling two or three at a time in a range of about 30 colours.  This brand crashed quite spectacularly after a couple of seasons, but made us some serious money!

I was now looking for new challenges as the boredom began to set in… same old showrooms, same old shows… The excitement of seeking out new collections was always a buzz, and I do have an eye for what’s coming through.  In 16 years of buying Menswear I made surprisingly few mistakes, but the business was losing its thrill for me.  What to do?  A few options were considered. When I first opened the business, there was a shop in nearby Chislehurst called Wardrobe that had a legendary reputation.  I had always aspired to create something as iconic and successful as Wardrobe.  Now it was time to make a bid to buy them out……

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