Ladies, we’ve all done it – I mean, walked passed a gorgeous looking boutique and thought ‘Oh gosh, I couldn’t possibly go in there – I mean, it’s too posh, too expensive, too beautiful, for me!’
Well, let me tell you about Berties in Guildhall Road, Northampton.
I met up with Leonie and Duncan Wild to find out about their business and what they and their ethos is all about.
Some of you may know that Duncan once played cricket for Northamptonshire County, until he started his own successful promotional clothing business, way back then. What you may not know is that Leonie started off her career as a fruit importer in London! However, her career was influenced by her Aunt, who was a Senior Fashion Buyer and her father who had always worked in the fashion industry. Even as a small child, clothes always mattered to her, and I suppose to be involved in the fashion industry was really ‘her calling’.
Leonie launched Berties in 1993 – a very brave thing to do, as the UK was in the middle of a recession at that time, but, says Leonie ‘It was the best thing that we’ve ever done. We understand that people are actually our business, rather than clothes. We get close to our clients in order to understand them and help them build a ‘look’ that they feel comfortable and confident with.
It’s all about ‘cost per wear’. We’ve all purchased items that just don’t go with the rest of our wardrobe, or it’s worn once and then looks worn out! We work really hard to ensure that our customers get a valid return on their investment by showing them how to change the look of a key piece by wearing different accessories or teaming it with different garments.
Our prices range from budget entry which is equivalent to the High Street up to our luxury brands. Our clients range from 12 to 78 years in age – many of them come from far afield as Kent, Cornwall and Scotland!
We work exceptionally hard at buying the right collections every season. It’s exhausting because we look at hundreds of collections and don’t just rely on our regular suppliers, because if they don’t deliver a fab collection one season, we don’t feel obliged to support them. We’re always on the look out for new and exciting designers. In the trade, it’s called ‘watching’. We will follow a new designer for 2 or 3 collections to see how they’re performing. It’s at this stage that we may consider stocking them. It sounds really glamorous, scouring collections from all over the world, but believe me, it’s really hard work!
However, we are lucky to have a great team that really understand the powerful effect that clothes can have on people and we all strive to get it right every time for our customers’.
Gilly, the Manageress and the ‘Styling Queen’, has been in the fashion industry for over 30 years and with Berties since 1997. Many of her customers have followed her through her career. One client lives in Switzerland who trusts Gilly so much that she orders pieces on Gilly’s recommendation over the phone! Considering that very little gets returned, it says a lot about Gilly’s understanding of her customers taste! Sian and Angela are the newest members of the ‘family’ and have both taken to their roles like ducks to water. In fact, their staff range in age from 17 to 66, which is reassuring to know, considering the age range of their customers.
Gilly says ‘We obviously do posh frocks for posh occasions, but we’re not that posh that we’re intimidating. Actually, the reality is that we cater for those that have very little money but love to dress up and those with pots of money but live in jeans. We really do have something for everyone. Our range of jeans are exceptionally high quality and we stock brands such as 7 For All Mankind and Paige. The reason for this is that a pair of jeans are an ‘investment piece’ that will be with you for a long, long time. On the other hand we stock ‘trend pieces’ that may not be wearable in 2 season’s time. That’s why it’s important for customers to spend their money wisely in terms of ‘cost per wear’.
I’d never really thought about clothes like this before, but it really makes sense. And, having looked at the fabulous ranges stocked in Berties, it’s obvious that they offer the very best that’s ‘out there’ at the moment.
28 Guildhall Road
01604 602 101
Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5.30pm; Saturday 9.30am to 5.30pm (Please note Berties is closed on Mondays)
Member since: 14th November 2011
I am Alison Pate run this little baby! We also publish thebestofnorthampton magazine that has a distribution of 20,000 in and around Northampton