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July 14, 2014
This one didn’t end up in the magazine - but I still want to share it with you.

A little design teaser from the upcoming JUS20 magazine - a one-off issue from The University of Sheffield. This one didn’t make it through, but it’s still nice to read. Text by Nicole Laffan.

July 14, 2014
What I wrote for Management Today

Read what I wrote for business magazine Management Today during my internship there:

5 People Who Should Replace Duncan Bannatyne On Dragon’s Den

War Of The Hashtags: One Chart Showing Sponsors’ Battle For World Cup Supremacy

12 Worst CVs Ever

Take That, Inflation: Starting Salaries Are At A Record High

June 27, 2014

Fast Fashion piece.

Written, photographed and designed by Amber De Smet.

June 12, 2014

Two covers I designed for a concept magazine.

Many thanks to Michelle Roller for letting me use some of her amazing photography.

June 5, 2014

raspberries

May 16, 2014

Spring in pictures

April 15, 2014
Liberty Belle Sheffield: Sartorial Lent Antidote: Sugary Easter Dressing

Click the title to read my Easter fashion article on Liberty Belle’s website!

March 11, 2014
SOS tactics to save your shop

By Amber De Smet

The recession is taking its toll on small fashion retailers, as times are tougher than ever. Retail expert Dees De Smet offers essential tips to get through these difficult times.

After five years of recession, more and more independent fashion retailers struggle to survive. With rents still going up, and big chains becoming increasingly prominent on the high street, small businesses are very uncertain about their future.

And with one third of Internet users making online purchases, online shopping is a factor to consider as well, since costumers may look for cheaper alternatives online instead. “With the Internet, small shops compete against competitors they aren’t even aware of, ” says Dees De Smet, 57, CEO of several leading European fashion retail chains over the past 30 years. “Especially with fashion. Fashion items are luxury goods – not something people necessarily need, so people want to spend less money on it these days.”

However, there is a way to improve your business, even in the current economic climate. “The shops that stand out are the ones that survive,” De Smet says. And, according to him, most successful small businesses do this with at least one of the SOS elements: Super-specialists, Outstanding service, and Smart Location.

Super-specialists

The first group of survivors consists of the so-called “super-specialists”. They either specialise in a unique product that only they provide, or focus on a niche group of costumers.

But is it possible to still invent a unique concept these days?  It may be difficult, but it is possible, according to Dees De Smet. “Remember, every chain started out with only one shop,” he says. “Successful super-specialists focus on something that nobody else has.”

Repeat, a brand focused solely on high quality cashmere, is an example of super-specialism in the fashion field. The brand only sells products made of high quality goat’s wool, and can be found in shops from Austria to Kazakhstan these days.

Another great example is YKK, the one brand behind practically all zippers in the fashion industry these days. They started out with only one independent shop in Japan in 1934. According to their website, “The owner, Mr. Yoshida, believed he must manufacture only useful, high quality zippers that would benefit, or enhance, the end-use goods in which they were installed” – and this focus on one high-quality product was exactly what eventually gave the company worldwide success.

Outstanding service

The second element is outstanding service, which means – apart from having friendly staff – building a relationship with your customers. “Communication is the key: give your regular customers extra attention, and make sure they feel like you know them on a personal level. Find a place in people’s hearts – and in their wallets,” is the way De Smet puts it.

Ladies’ Boutique Sisters, based in Sheffield and Chesterfield, uses traditional mail service. The shop tries to tune in to their customers needs, even when it comes to sending them invitations and information.

“Our shop has been in Sheffield for twenty-odd years, and we very much rely on regular customers. Our business is very much about keeping in touch and really knowing customers,” says 33-year-old sales representative Jenny Webster. “We still use traditional mail service, because we rely on customers that are quite mature. You’ve got to adapt to your customers after all.”  

And even though mail service is expensive compared to the e-mails most shops send out, they see their efforts back in their sales results. “It’s worth it,” according to Webster.

Smart location

Because small shops may not have the best choice when it comes to location, as they do not bring the amount of traffic that big chain stores bring, they may opt for a special location instead. Shops near hospitals, train stations and students’ accommodation pay far less rent than their counterparts in city centres, yet gain traffic due to their convenient location. “You move to a location where your costumers already are, so they don’t have to come to you,” says De Smet.

Liam Smith, 24, and Amber Savage, 22, own vintage shop Vulgar in Sheffield. Their shop is located near The University of Sheffield’s main buildings, and only a stone’s throw away from most student flats. 

“We tend to sell mostly to students,” says Smith. “Those are the kind of people we see walk into the shop, as they live around here.”

“It’s going really well, even though we started our business during the recession. We are still young, and we don’t know any better. Older people are probably used to different times,” Savage adds.

 

But whether you’re old or young – De Smet’s ideas are essential advice for anyone considering entering the business as a small retailer or anyone encountering a difficult time business-wise.

He finally adds: “As a small shop, you can’t survive if you have too many fixed costs, like rent, to pay every month. Also, you should really specialise in good service or a unique range of products to become successful – preferably both. Offer your customers something special.”