Last year was a huge journey of personal growth for me. With bold steps forward and reluctant steps backwards. It was an eventful year.
At the start of 2019 I finally got to visit my production facility in Lucknow, India. I fell further in love with my production team and their amazing facility.
This year’s collection resulted in 88% sold out by the end of 2019 (with no price reduction required). In the cutthroat fashion industry that is a big deal. It gave me the confidence to believe that I understand my customers’ needs. Being a designer is a constant battle against self-doubt. I really, really needed this confidence boost.
There is always going to be a balancing act between helping people and making money on this project. However, the process is so satisfying that it is becoming the most meaningful part of my life. This project also helps to build the Aware identity. In a nutshell this year has shown me that the future financial possibilities for this pursuit have real potential.
This year I gave my online store a little more love, by revamping with a new look. This resulted in sales, even international sales. This year the plan is that my online site will be getting a whole lot more love, so I can make more of a presence online. This is the only way to survive long term in retail!
After 10 years of markets and collaborations on the 13th of January 2020 I am going to open my very own brick and mortar retail store. You may feel that I am completely and utterly mad, but, I think that you kind of need to be in my industry 😉 !!!!
In our modern online retail world, physical stores are struggling everywhere, with an eminent recession looming. One leading economist has described it as Australia is "teetering on the edge of a recession" (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-04/economy-to-continue-teetering-on-the-edge-of-recession/11761358). In the US more than 9,300 stores were expected to close in 2019. In fact, retailers are setting a new record for store closings over the last 12 months (https://www.businessinsider.com.au/stores-closing-in-2019-list-2019-3?r=US&IR=T). Business journalists are calling this the retail apocalypse. This apocalypse has been echoed by my own experience, in the Christmas period of 2019 sales were down significantly from 2018 (in our brick and mortar store). But, over the year of 2019 Aware had the best financial results in our 10 years of business. It is such an exciting time because to me it’s a sign that overall more people are buying less, are more considered and want quality products.
Moreover, the retail industry is changing, daily, even hourly. All the previous marketing models need to be tossed out and new ways of thinking need to be embraced. Just one example, is the number of algorithm changes for Facebook and Instagram. This however is an enormous opportunity for small and local businesses. For us, we can quickly adapt and implement new strategies to cope with the ever-constant changes. There is no time for bureaucracy – Its move on to the latest wave of opportunities or be left behind and quite possibly die!!!!!
For the past 6 years my brick and mortar experiences have been “pop up” spaces, for temporary 6 month stints in spaces that are long term vacant shops. Aware started in Sydney, then moved to the Central Coast, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle. This is year is first time, Aware has signed a lease. The shop is in a lovely shopping centre (I told you I was mad right!). This experience was been a massive challenge and not a pleasant journey so far. Just one example of the ripple effect of this decision is that I had to sell my home. My son is very upset with me, I got my very first “I hate you mum”. My family is wonderfully supportive of my dream, however, now really think I am mad enough to be institutionalised (only slightly kidding 😉). It has been such a hard journey, there were tears. The main reason for the brutal learning curve, was due to my struggle to find any information on how it could have been done more efficiently. But as my entrepreneurial grandfather would have said “ you don’t get the honey without challenging the bees”.
There is a positive though. This horrible experience birthed something wonderful – An opportunity to really help people do what I do. So, I started talking to my tribe of likeminded change makers and world shakers. People made up of professional writers, social advocacy influences and even a talented documentary producer. They listened, and to my delight they offered to help. In short, I am going to use my experience to create a learning module on how to start a brick and mortar. So, the horror of it all, is almost, ALMOST, worth it. The whole past few months has kind of been akin the giving birth. Now, I am able to help other “pregnant” business owners from suffering as much pain as me.
I can’t believe that in days I will be in my very own brick and mortar shop.
Do I have a sign – NO (Even though I started the process of it in September).
Do I have the shop fit approved yet – NO (The owner is on holidays) .
Do I have to pay rent – YES ( So I have to make do with what I have got).
Fortunately, all the years of doing markets in unpredictable weather and driving foot traffic into pop ups shops that had no foot traffic, make me feel confident that I can hack this situation.
Looking forward to sharing the journey with you and I hope to see you all at my (not totally ready) shop on the 13th of January. It will be located at Belmont Citi Centre, shop 14, 45/41 Macquarie St, Belmont NSW.
Lots of Love,
#togetherwecan #changetheworld #crazypassionateaboutwhatIdo