Cheryl Taylor talks to Rosi Greenall of Junior Choice, Rushden, Northamptonshire


Name: Rosi Greenall
Shop: Junior Choice
Home town: Kettering, Northamptonshire.
Brands: Start-rite, Clarks, Garvalin, Primigi, Ricosta, Geox, LelliKelly. Bobux
Family: Married with one son, 18 years old.

How did you get into footwear?
Tell us about your background and your current business?
Born in Cologne, Germany, I worked for many years in children’s fashion and related roles, including branch manager for Prenatal, which was the equivalent to Mothercare in Germany. They used to have 45 shops all over Germany. Like I said, I started as branch manager, but was later travelling to do presentations of fashion, including shoes, and got involved in staff training as well. I became a buyer for fashion and shoes for the age group 1 to 6 years, travelling extensively to suppliers in the Far East, to co-ordinate quality and design requirements, a role which I later undertook for various other companies. I love people and fashion, so when the time came, eight years ago, I bought a children’s shoe shop.

Where is your shop located and how many people do you employ? Do you have a high turnover of staff? Tell us about your shop(s), the local area, your customers and their requirements?
Our shop is in Rushden, Northamptonshire and we employ a full time Shop Manageress, and two part time staff, whilst I work full time in the shop, as well as purchasing and controlling all stock. We do not really have a high turnover of staff. When we took over the shop 8 years ago, our present Manageress was already on the staff. However, the problem with children’s shoes is the high level of fluctuation in demand, based on school holidays and ‘ Back to School ‘. This means that you must use additional casual staff at those times. Fortunately, we have several ladies who have worked with us in the past, who have left to have a family, but who are happy to come in for a few days when required. Rushden suffers like every other town centre at the moment, but our customers are loyal because they know the wide range of shoes and our service is good, not to forget the free long stay parking areas all around our shop.

Do you have an online shop/website and do you use social networking for business?
We intentionally emphasize our personal service and hands on approach, using only skilled and trained shoe fitters. We have a website, but it is used mainly for day to day enquiries (opening times etc.). We do not sell online, because that is contrary to the ethos of ‘skilled shoe fitter knows best’, which is what we try to project.

How are you finding the footwear market currently?
During the recession the market has been very tough and is definitely being hit by online sales. Cheap quality products from the supermarkets do not help either, but fortunately there are enough discerning customers who appreciate quality, both in products and service.
Many of them remark how disappointed they have been by cheap, shoddy, shoes that have not turned out to be the bargain they appeared at the time.

What’s selling well? Any particular trends? Which are your best selling footwear brands – and why?
This is difficult to answer, because it depends on the season. However, patent leather seems to be very popular at the moment, but we try to stock a very wide range and know for whom we cater.

Does your shop sell other items besides footwear, bags, gloves, tights, socks, below the ankle products?
Not as a serious effort because space is at a premium. We do carry some items that are complementary, such as bags and trinkets, but nothing more.

Any difficulties/problems?
The biggest problem has been a noticeable reluctance to spend when the economy tightened, which now seems to be easing slightly. Also, the perennial problem of having the skilled staff available when ‘Back to School ‘ times come around and your turnover increases six-fold, but unfortunately only for a few weeks.

Any tips on stock offers, novel ideas for clearing lines or advice for independent shoe retailers who might be feeling the pinch?
It is important to watch your stock very carefully and make everybody on your staff aware of a line that is not selling very well. You would be surprised how many shoes are not sold simply because the shoe fitter doesn’t point out the particular qualities of a product, such as washability, or the fact that the insoles are removable. I know we all have our moments when ordering and can sometimes make a poor choice. Do not sit on that bad stock, sell them off as quickly as you can, turn them into cash and make a better choice next time!

Which is your favourite children’s brand – and why?
I only sell children’s shoes and I can’t afford to have a favourite one, all brands I have in my shop have to suit my customers, so there is something for everyone who comes through the door.

How do you select your products – which criteria do you use / what are your customers looking for?
When I make my purchasing decisions, I select my products by asking myself which areas do I need to cover. I pride myself in knowing what is fashionable at the moment, colours, materials, styles etc. I then have to consider the season and look very carefully at what I have in stock and is there any area that does not seem to be covered.

Which footwear/fashion shows do you attend, how do you rate them?
I visit the Moda, which is quite good and all my suppliers are there. However, they are most effective at showing new trends, whilst the real purchasing decisions are made when the suppliers present their collection in private.

Do you have a favourite footwear agent?
No, the people I work with are all very nice and very professional.

Have you always had a passion for footwear? How many pairs of shoes do you own? Do you have a favourite pair?
Yes, I always loved shoes, but I should not tell you how many I have, just in case my husband reads this article, but there are quite a few, and many favourite ones.

Any famous customers?
Not that we are aware of, but we do have many lovely customers and their children, and you know you must be doing something right when they keep coming back again and again.

And, the next step? Any plans for the future, new lines, retail systems/new technology, etc.?
No, just continue with the same good old fashioned customer service and satisfaction.

Junior Choice
8b Church Street
Rushden Northants NN10 9YT.
Tel: 01933 316656 (Rushden)