Allotment flies the flag for independent boutiques in Somerset24/08/2016
We are huge fans of independent stores, so when we met Kirsten Thompson, the founder of Allotment in Somerset, we couldn’t wait to interview her to find out what led her to take the plunge and what future plans she has for her business.
How did the idea for Allotment come about?
Initially I thought there was a gap locally for well-priced jewellery to give as gifts or as a self-treat. I started with one brand of jewellery bought very spontaneously a few days before a Christmas event, sold out and have never looked back. I had no retail or fashion experience but soon realised there were a lot of stylish ladies in Somerset and so took the plunge, rolled with the success and worried about how to go about buying, merchandising and the social media and marketing side as I went along! The range of jewellery has increased hugely with lots of brands not readily available on the high street sourced from Europe and as far as Australia and it wasn't long before I added other accessories, scarves, handbags, belts, luxury knitwear, T-shirts and footwear.
What makes Allotment different from other stores?
As a one-man band firstly I like to think I offer a very one to one personal and friendly service to all my customers. II know all the stock and brands very well and can advise accordingly. I have passion for customer service and enjoy chatting so it comes easily! All our brands are carefully selected and curated. We also have a unique and idyllic rural location in a converted out building on a working farm with an award winning café on site. We are lucky to have stone walls, exposed beams and roaming chickens and my dog sometimes comes with me and snoozes outside the shop.
What are your wardrobe essentials?
Allotment is all about "less is more" and cleverly accessorising a capsule wardrobe and I really love advising customers on what accessories will update their existing wardrobe and favourite outfits. I have a lot of customers who live in their jeans but want to still look pulled-together and stylish. We also have to accommodate the Somerset weather and environment (not so many pavements and lots of mud!) Personally I buy a few trans-seasonal knitwear pieces each year in either cashmere, merino or a cotton mix, a few new T-shirts for Summer or to layer under knitwear, I'm also a big fan of a good shirt/blouse to dress up smarter jeans. I have a penchant for beautiful scarves and love their ability to change even the most simple and neutral of outfits and am happy to be more experimental with colour with them. I like to invest in a really lovely leather handbag that will last a few years, a studded belt to liven up my everyday jeans and always a new pair of boots in the winter and a pair of wear-with-everything trainers to bridge the gap between boots and sandals/espadrilles.
What has been the high point of launching the business?
If someone had said a year ago that I would have my own retail unit and have expanded the range to what it is today I wouldn't have believed them! Starting the business has been all about riding the highs and the lows and overcoming some serious moments of self-doubt along the way! I have a real sense of accomplishment in setting up the business and have always sponged up as much advice, criticism and helpful hints as possible. It has not always been easy juggling a very busy family life with building the business but I was pleasantly surprised early on to find that behind many of the brands I was going to stock was a working mother managing the same commitments as me!
What is next for Allotment?
In the immediate future I am getting very excited about launching AW16 in the shop later in the year, there will be an abundance of wonderful new products full of rich seasonal tones and textures and I am very pleased to be welcoming some new brands as well as our tried and tested favourites. Our popular "Christmas Wish List" will also make a welcome return for easy Christmas shopping. The website will go live later this year, www.shopallotment.co.uk
Check out Allotment’s stunning fashion edit on Facebook at www.facebook.com/shopallotment/