5 Minutes With Naomi Hill, PR Coordinator, Weird Fish

Fashion brand Weird Fish recently launched its new store concept at its brand new store in Scarborough, and there are plans to implement that concept design across all of the retailer's stores. For this week's '5 Minutes With' profile, Retail Gazette spoke to Naomi Hill to find out more about the direction the business is taking.

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Naomi Hill Weird Fish

Weird Fish recently opened its 14th store in Scarborough. Congratulations!

Brilliant, we have had a fantastic response since we opened back in August. The feedback from locals has been incredibly positive, and it is consistently one of our best performing stores.

How is this store different to other Weird Fish stores?

This shop is unique in the fact that it was the first to receive our brand new store concept.

We have spent the past six months working on new branding, and a fresher, brighter shop fit, and we were proud to roll this out into Scarborough.

Describe the concept behind the new store.

We really wanted to focus on bringing the outdoors in, so no matter the weather outside, it feels bright and open inside, with nods to the coast and country with our marine motifs and real plants. We have focused on zoning the areas so it is easier for customers to find what they are looking for.

Fashion is going through a tumultuous time on the high street since the Brexit vote, with big home-grown names like Next and New Look posting falling sales and profits. How is Weird Fish addressing issues facing the fashion sector?

We have just filed our accounts for 2016 which show total sales growth of 21 per cent, with ecommerce growing over 40 per cent, and our wholesale business growing 25 per cent.

This year we are continuing to see strong performance, ahead of expectations. Our high quality, versatile product with appeal to a broad age range, has somewhat shielded us from the problems faced by the fashion sector.

We have an excellent relationship with our overseas suppliers, and we are constantly striving to research and develop with them to keep our quality high, while not forcing prices up for customers.

How is Weird Fish addressing some of the challenges facing the UK retail industry as a whole?

We are maintaining competitive pricing and positive margins, during the uncertainty post-Brexit times, and appealing to a consumer who is reluctant to spend.

We are also concentrating on our customer journey in-store and online, making sure the shopping experience is as quick and pain free as possible to help convert customers that are more hesitant to spend.

Tell us a bit about your role.

It is my role to raise the profile of the business, be that through working with the marketing department on campaigns, spreading the word through our social media channels, or getting our brand in front of new customers at events.

One day I could be styling on a photo shoot, another I could be communicating with online bloggers. It is always different, and always interesting.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Weird Fish.

I have a retail background, coming from River Island and the Body Shop, but my career really took off when I joined Weird Fish, and I have now been with the company over nine years.

What got you into the retail sector in the first place?

I have always enjoyed fashion, and dabbled with the idea of being a fashion designer back at school, so they sent me on work experience at River Island, which lead to me getting a job there after school.

Although my fashion designing skills weren’t up to much, I loved working in retail and was really pleased when I landed a job at the Weird Fish head office where I could learn more about what goes on behind the scenes of fashion retail.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

I was a Body Shop party consultant which taught me important people skills, while my merchandising background at River Island helped teach me how to present a brand, and be consistent in my communications.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Probably juggling everything. I usually have a lot of different projects on the go, and often have to adapt my way of thinking depending on the job at hand. It is challenging to make sure everything is coherent and consistent when different areas may have different dates for publication.

And the most rewarding?

I work closely with the marketing team on producing content such as the catalogues. It is fantastic to be part of the whole process, from photo shoot to creation, and brochures hitting doorsteps.

Those first few days when a catalogue hits down and customers are really engaging and buying, makes me really proud in what we have achieved.

Can you talk about any other projects that you’re working on?

We are focusing very heavily on branding at the moment with our fresh new store concept that we launched in Scarborough this year. We plan to roll this out to more stores, and refresh our entire company look and feel.

We aren’t drastically changing anything as we are proud of the heritage we have built in the last 24 years, but it is all about evolving and refreshing the brand.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

I found it helps to have in interest in what it is you are selling, but the most important thing is to put yourself in the shoes of the consumer.

We are all shoppers and we know how we like to be communicated with, you just need to apply that to everything you are doing, remember to take a step back and don’t get bogged down in the details.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

The political and economic uncertainty: this could lead to a reduction in consumer demand, and subsequent impact on retail prices, and profitability. In addition, costs of importing from manufacturers and suppliers could be affected by the exchange rate uncertainty.

But the upside of all this uncertainty is we could start to see a rise in UK manufacturing and production again, which would be a fantastic boost for the economy.

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