From small brands, big brands growBY Zoe Thompson
The Aussie retailer bringing bricks-and-mortar back in style
In an age where online and global competitors dominate the retail market, boutique retailer, Meg and Wally, prove that small retailers still hold an important place in Australian retail.
Nestled in the heart of West Leederville, Western Australia, Meg and Wally are a boutique that offers an exclusive range of brands including Auguste, Elka Collective, James Smith, Status Anxiety, One Vice and C&M by Camilla and Marc.
The unique, cosy retail store owned by Cath Watkins Carroll, overflows with stylish garments and homewares sourced from overseas travels and local talent. Eager to find out more about the origins of this eclectic boutique, the Australian Retailers’ Association sat down with Cath to discuss her exciting transition into retail and how the Meg and Wally customers motivate her each day.
Hi Cath, can you give us a background of your retail history?
My sister and I started Meg and Wally boutique in November 2010, and it was my first foray into the retail industry. Before that, I was studying a Business Law degree and working full time for a not-for- profit organisation, so there were a lot of things I had to learn along the way. In 2012/2013 with help from our employees, we released a small capsule of clothing sold exclusively at Meg and Wally.
It truly was an exciting time for us, and we were involved in the whole process of creating a label, from designing the range to sourcing, print, and working with suppliers.
Having now established your own business, what inspires you? and what do you love about retail?
I am inspired by three things; our customers, staff, and the brands represented in our store. Our employees are a huge part of the customer's journey, and they take great pride in making sure everyone who walks through the store feels valued and gets the level of service that is right for them.
There are so many things I love about retail, but the thing that makes me smile the most is when we receive feedback from our customers that we are providing a space where they can collect wardrobe staples, a baby shower gift, or a little something to spoil someone special.
What made you want to work in retail? What is the best part of your job?
I think it’s important to create an atmosphere where the customer service style is friendly and helpful, which is something we thought was lacking in the market when we started.
The best part of my job is being able to work in an inviting space filled with beautiful and unique things.
How has your vision changed since you first started Meg and Wally?
I don’t think our vision has changed too dramatically since starting the store. We still want to provide a welcoming space filled with beautiful things. We have diversified our offering slightly, including gifts and homewares, plus a selection of goodies for babies. We are always on the lookout for fresh, new things.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
There have been opportunities to move location since we opened, but so far, the West Leederville life is home for us, and we love our locals. Over the coming years, I see megandwally.com going from strength to strength, so there will be a definite focus on increasing our online presence.
We are always on the hunt for new and exciting brands to work with, so I would also love to fit in more buying trips to the East Coast.
What do you see as your future obstacles?
In the future, I see social media marketing and our premises as our main obstacles. In terms of marketing, we saw a massive shift a few years ago when Facebook changed their algorithm, and as a result, our focus shifted to Instagram. We are very lucky in that our users engage with us well currently; however, I feel like we have a lot of eggs in one basket with Instagram. I fear that platform may change in the future, and all the effort we have put into engage with our customers and give them great content may be lost.
Lastly, our shopfront is quite small, so I guess it’s always in the back of my mind that a bit more space might be useful.
What advice would you give to young people in the industry who are passionate about making a career in retail?
It’s not all glamour. You’ve got to get busy and get your hands dirty. If you’re looking at starting your own business, I’d say it’s not for the faint hearted, and it’s a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding. I recommend that you do your research; there are lots of free resources to get you going and always ask for help if you need.
How do you think retailers can engage better with customers?
I think retailers can engage with customers better through their staff on the shop floor. Retailers can encourage staff to focus on tailoring their customer service skills to enhance the customer experience.
For more information on Meg and Wally visit megandwally.com. To read more inspiring stories like Cath’s, visit the Australian Retailers Association’s Women in Retail Series at retail.org.au/womeninretail
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zoe is the Marketing and Communications Officer for the Australian Retailers Association