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"Starting from scratch" sounds like an exaggeration considering the Elly store has been opened for 1 year 5 months before TWELVE opened. Technically, opening a second retail store should totally have been easy-peasy right? We thought the same too. There was one difference though - when we were setting up the Elly Store, Elly already had collections ready for sale (even collections in production) plus a collection of toys. Elly also had its "backend" sorted (well, sort of). For starters, it had a name + brand + website + logo + hang tags (have you seen the old tags which had Elliot who is Elly's original elephant on them? They're now vintage! Ha!). That was a huge weight off our shoulders. By the time we signed on the lease, we had an idea what the look and feel of the store was going to be and we didn't have to fuss with production and sourcing, at least not whilst renovations were ongoing. In contrast, TWELVE BY ELLY was started from nothing. We didn't have a brand or store name in January 2013 when we first talked about opening this new store. We didn't have a logo, website, hang tags, name cards, a physical location (!!!) - all of which was dependent on us getting the brand name + concept nailed down. We didn't have ANY clothes or shoes or stationery. We didn't have a store design (which was dependent on us getting the location sorted)! We were looking at many moving factors which were inter-dependent on each other and hence spiralled into a cycle of indecision. Someone asked me what we needed to do in order to open a physical store?
Well, I'll try to take you through what was on our "To Do" list.
First, a brand name. - Why TWELVE by Elly? We thought it was catchy and it represented the end of the age group we're reaching out to. - How did we decide on it? Played around with a couple of options before we unanimously agreed on TWELVE. I think like Elly, it'll stick in your memory. Once we nailed down the brand name, we found a designer who was going to design our logo, website, hang tags etc. Then, we needed to decide on a colour theme. TWELVE has 3 key colours which you will see on our website, paper bags, name cards and even the display stands in the store (more on that in the next blog post). At first, I was going for the all-black approach but the designer mentioned that 6-12 year olds were still attracted to vibrant colours and the all-black approach would've been too stark and too mature a look. At this point, we were seriously multi-tasking!
(A) Designing our logo design, website, hang tags, name cards AND postcards We worked with a design team and together, we talked through what we thought was good (or bad) about the samples they gave us e.g. font size too big, don't like italics, don't like numerics, can't make out the TWELVE word, too much emphasis on ELLY, colours are too pastel, colour board wasn't suitable. We polled friends, friend's children in the 6-12 yr age group, customers and anybody who walked by whilst we were looking through these designs!
(B) Sourcing for Products At the same time, we were sourcing for products for our store. We were looking at clothes for girls and boys, bags, stationery, loungewear and nightwear, shoes and accessories. We had more than 10 different brands to go through the ordering process for - pouring through catalogues, doing an order form, managing invoicing, following up with delivery, coding, inventorising and price tagging the items. My house was looking like a store-room with over 40 boxes of shoes and clothes delivered before our store opening. It was like living in a warehouse!!
Photo Credits (Clockwise from top left): Aya Naya, Baggu, American Outfitters and Tappa Naki
(C) Designing a retail store At the same time, we were designing the physical store (and by "we", you know I really mean Carol... haha, designing stores and visual merchandising are her thing). So there was mega surfing for inspiration on google, blogs, Pinterest and trips to the library to borrow books on retail spaces to find store layouts, themes, colours, fittings and "statement pieces". We wanted to find a distinctive look you would always associate with the store, e.g. Macdonalds' golden arches sign; Page One (the book store) used to have slanted shelves that made me dizzy walking through it; Ben & Jerry + Marche have a variety of cows outside their stores. I would think of more examples than these but my brain seems to have turned to cheese these couple of days so I'm clean out of other examples. After countless sketches, we finally nailed down a proposed furniture layout plan for the contractor. The contractor moved in pre-built pieces of our feature counter top, our step-display and our cashier counter. At the time they laid the counter top on its side, I must say I was a little disappointed. It well didn't look like anything I wanted it to look like!
But once they flipped it the right way round, I was all smiles!
Here's one of Carol's sketches of our side wall and the picture below it is the finished product. As you can tell, we went through iterations even after we had "nailed down" the "final design". It was constantly a work-in-progress!
Empty walls to be filled before the Grand Opening!
(D) The Elly Store Just to add icing on the cake, we still had Elly to worry about throughout this time. We had a new collection in production for end August / September which we were constantly eye-balling. We were already designing our collection for CNY 2014. We had to inventorise and tag our new collections. We had to continue re-ordering stock to manage our inventory levels. We had to continue with our administrative work. It was never-ending. Some say two stores would be alot easier to manage because we have had experience going through one store's worth of hurdles but there were days it felt like 5x as hard! But these pictures speak of a quiet pride in the knowledge that we did this through sheer hard work, without a professional designer and together, it was more than what we could've imagined it to be.
We'd like to spend the afternoon with family and friends so Carol & I would be honoured if you could join us for the Grand Opening of TWELVE! See you there!
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