MARKET MATTERS: European clothing makes its mark
Working your way between the rows of lush, neutral-coloured clothing suspended from the roof of Louise Bell’s stall is a pleasant experience.
Among the autumn/winter stock of coats, jumpers, gilets and cardigans out on display, wool and fur are prominent features.
“Most of the clothes are French or Italian. I get them from suppliers over there,” Louise explained.
“They’re not designer labels but everything is different. I get anything which takes my fancy when I’m buying, nothing specific.
“But I never, ever get anything that’s not out of the ordinary. It has got to be a bit different for me to buy it.”
Former long-distance lorry driver Louise started up Louise’s Fashions on Bury’s market about ten years ago.
“Up until two weeks before I had my son, who’s now 23, I was driving a lorry so it was a complete change for me,” she said.
Now she is well established, with a broad base of European suppliers and changing seasonal stock.
She imports most of her stock from France and Italy and stores it at her home in Essex.
“I use a lot of suppliers. I shop around, sometimes you have to to get something that is different,” she said.
The clothes range from trousers, skirts and scarves to jumpers, blouses and knitted cardigans, sleek separates and three-piece outfits to mix and match items. Clothes such as coats, jumpers and linen items are stocked seasonally.
“It has to be good material, and I tend to go for comfort because of my customers. When you’re older you want something comfortable,” said Louise.
“I do some jumpers with a bit of cashmere, some real wool and jersey.”
Louise believes trust is the key to the customer relationships she has cultivated.
“I have built up the business over the years and have gone from strength to strength,” she said.
“I have my regular customers who come to me every week and get more passing trade on a Saturday, as well as the holidaymakers. I even get some French people buying from me.
“My customers know they can trust me, and if there is anything wrong with their item they can bring it back.”
In Bury, Louise occupies a smaller stall on Wednesdays and a bigger stall on the busier Saturday market, as well as setting up at Fakenham market on Thursdays.