INTERVIEW: Boux Avenue founder Theo Paphitis on Christmas trading

In an exclusive interview in London, Boux Avenue founder Theo Paphitis reveals his expectations for this year’s Christmas trading period, including a surge in male shoppers to his 29 stores and the sale of twosies – an extension of the popular onesie.

How are you preparing for the Christmas rush?
The same way we always prepare for the Christmas rush. The Christmas rush is what we live for – we’re retailers, shopkeepers, and that’s when we make our money. If you don’t get that right, you might as well not bother with the rest of the year. So it’s about attention to detail – it’s what we live for, what we prepare for and what we pray to God we get right.

Do you know when will be your busiest shopping day of the year?
No. Black Friday will undoubtedly be big again this year, as it has been the past couple of years. For a lot of people, it has become Black Friday week and dragged on a bit. We just focus on every single day.

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How do you expect this year to perform versus last year?
This year has been tough all year round, for all retailers – as you will have with seen some of the figures that have gone out there – and we’re no different. We have to work twice as hard just to stand still and if that’s what we’ve got to do just to get through it then that’s what we’ll do.

What do you expect to be your best-selling items to be over Christmas?
Fifty percent of our lingerie revenue is made over Christmas. In terms of styles, last year we had the onesie and this year we have the twosies! So we’re quite hopeful for those. Chloe has always been successful over Christmas and we have a brand new Chloe range this year that we know from the first reactions that it will be a sell-out.

Do you expect more men or women to shop at Boux Avenue this Christmas?
Historically, British blokes have failed at shopping for lingerie – they’re not as romantic. They’ve got to pull their finger out. There’s all these lovely ladies looking for romance and there’s us boys letting the side down, whereas our continental friends are a lot sharper than that – they always go into lingerie stores. But what was interesting last year is that purchases made by men went up 130%. We worked hard on that and I’m hoping that this year we will replicate a similar figure.

What has driven this growth?
The Boux store encourages growth – it’s not intimidating, it’s comfortable and we have the lovely Boux girls there who will cater for your needs and are easy to talk to. So we are hoping that this trend continues. Also, Boux delivers perfectly wrapped gifts with tissue and scented petals – which makes life easy for men doing their Christmas shopping.

How do you keep the sales momentum going after Christmas and into the New Year?
Newness is what it’s all about. We’ve got 25% more new ranges now than we had last year and we are going to continue that growth. It’s about having things in that people want and desire and, most importantly, can afford.

Do you plan to open new stores next year?
Yes. We have already agreed to open a couple of stores and we’re looking to open a couple more. When we launched the brand five years ago we said we would only open 25 stores and we have 29 now. It’s growing because there is a demand for it – there’s new shopping centres coming up in the UK. Overseas, there are still more stores in the pipeline.

Has Brexit affected consumer behaviour?
It hasn’t actually. Obviously the fall of the pound makes it harder for us and our buying prices, but hopefully by the time we run out of our hedging, the pound should settle down. We’ve just got to get on with it. It’s what the people wanted and our job as shopkeepers is to give people what they want.

How’s online performing versus in store?
Online has shown massive growth for us. It’s by far the biggest growth area. But, don’t forget, Boux launched as an online business with stores – it’s not a store business with an online presence. In store, we have invested in offering excellent lingerie fittings and we’re the only retailer that has a City & Guilds accreditation for our staff in fit.

How do you translate the importance of a good fitting bra online?
When you’re a specialist like us and you concentrate so much on fit, it means your product is consistent and when your product is consistent, people have a lot more confidence in buying it online. We have wonderful visuals and videos online on how to fit yourself, but a lot of our customers do come in store as well, and they know that when they buy a certain size it will be that size and nothing else.

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