Q&A: Jo Stroud, Fabulous

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The retailer on growing her retail business and sourcing brands.

Jo Stroud launched her retail business Fabulous seven years ago. It has since grown to four stores, including a Pandora concept store in Bath, with a focus on offering fashion-led and branded jewellery. She was named a Ti Sento Retail Star in this year’s Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers.

Professional Jeweller: This year has been all about expansion at Fabulous – how has the business grown in 2012?
Jo Stroud: Over the last year, we have seen the benefits of being in larger stores, having extended Leamington Spa by 25% a year ago, and moved our Solihull store into a much larger unit. We have just done the same in Bath, relocating to a larger unit, so all three stores now total 1,000sq ft. This gives customers much more space to browse in all our stores, and has enabled us to extend our offering to watches also. We also re-launched the website this year, which has been a real highlight.

PJ: Expansion at any time can be arduous – how has it been in 2012 with the economy as it is?
JS: The economy has certainly been a challenge, as more affluent towns seem to be more affected this year, so we have seen our regular customers coming in slightly less frequently, and spending less when they do come in. This makes it even more important to continue to give customers reasons to shop at Fabulous, and events such as our annual Garden Party, our twice-yearly fashion shows, and our designer evenings all help with this. This is our sixth year of the Garden Party, and this year was the best one ever in terms of sales, with guests having the chance to meet James Boyd from Daisy, Marisa Horden from Missoma and Chloe Moss from Chlobo.

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PJ: Fabulous is very much focused on branded jewellery – tell us more about your vision for the business
JS: First and foremost, we see ourselves as a fashion retailer, and we deliberately site our stores close to stores like Karen Millen, Kurt Geiger and Topshop as we want women to pop in and look at jewellery while they are out shopping for clothes and accessories. This means we have to be at the forefront of discovering new and exciting brands and designers, because it is what our customers expect. As well as international trade fairs like Inhorgenta and Premiere Classe, we seek out new brands all the time, reading the fashion press, looking in boutiques, keeping an eye out when travelling, actively noting things in the press and on celebrities. I went to New York in 2008, for example, specifically to look at Chan Luu, and we became the largest UK stockist of her wrap bracelets, way back then. I also have a team of 25 staff across the stores who are all in their 20s, so I have a permanent team of trend-spotters to help.

PJ: You have been a Pandora stockist for six years now. What has the brand added to the business?
JS: I have been a long-term stockist of Pandora, since Spring 2006. I loved the product then, and I love it now. It is perfect for our customers, who are mostly fashionable women in their 30s and 40s, who like buying good jewellery for themselves. In both Leamington Spa and Solihull, we have really maximised the opportunity for Pandora over the last six years, but Bath remains a huge opportunity, as we have only been there for 18 months, and there is still a huge amount of growth for the brand there. At the same time, we have moved Fabulous into a much larger unit, still in Southgate Bath, to give us more space to showcase all of our other brands. The new unit has also enabled us to create a dedicated watch area, with Ice-watch, Toy Watch, Radley, Swatch, Bering and many more. Bath’s new Southgate area is a fantastic location, with stores such as Hollister Apple, Urban Outfitters being our close neighbours, so we are excited to be here in a bigger store.

PJ: Do you enjoy running your own retail jewellery business?
JS: I love it. I created Fabulous seven years ago, after working for seven years in retail and seven years in a marketing agency, and it still doesn’t feel like work. I wanted to make buying jewellery a much more fun, enjoyable, engaging experience, which I think we have managed to do – so working here should also be fun, which it certainly is. I think about the business all the time, whether I’m at work or at home, but in a good way, as I am always coming up with new ideas for it.

PJ: With business keeping you busy even away from the shop floor or office, what do you do to get away from it all?
JS: At the end of the day, I like the good things in life – good food, good wine, sunshine, travelling – so you have to balance work and play. I love going out for dinner, and my husband, Paul, and I dine out a lot, so I go running and go to a gym fairly often, to balance that out. We have a holiday home in Cornwall in a small fishing village, which we try to get to for weekends every six weeks or so, and that’s a complete break, as it’s just so different there.

PJ: With expansion under your belt for this year, what can we expect from Fabulous in 2013?
JS: Hopefully, more of the same. I love the excitement of retail, the buzz of customers, the fun of looking for new products and new brands. As a team at Fabulous, we are always full of new ideas, to make Fabulous even more fabulous. This coming year will see us continue to prioritise the website, as we are only at the very first stage of delivering a really fabulous on-line experience for our customers. And more stores? You never know.

 

 

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