Top Tips from Toorak Boutique “Coco & Lola” Founder Jessica Dunlop

Coco & Lola founder Jessica Dunlop reveals her path of success.

When did you open Coco & Lola and what are some of the products you sell?

I opened the first Coco & Lola store in 2010 in Perth WA (almost 10 years ago now!). My first store was a 40sqm shop on a residential street in Nedlands (our Perth flagship store is still in this location but in a much larger space). We have established ourselves as the leading go-to destination store for Australian designer fashion in womenswear. We provide a one stop shop for our customers and cater from everyday casual wear to that special event dress. 

We have grown organically by listening to our Coco community and giving our customer what they want. We now have flagship stores in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney which provides our loyal Coco community with in-store experiences that they see on social media and online. We are growing with our customers needs and continue to always be adaptable and love the challenges and rewards that retail brings. 

What are the best performing brands and categories?

All of the brands perform well in Coco & Lola but depending on the time of year (ie. weather or events) some brands do outperform others but it’s predictable based on the brand’s aesthetic and identity. 

I have always invested and supported our Australian designers and I am very passionate about Coco & Lola being an important platform for brands. We are continually training our stylists to take the customer on a journey and tell a brand’s story. 

We want the Coco community to understand a brands values, production techniques, fabrics, history, etc. as we want our customers to understand they are choosing an investment piece to wear for their special occasion or event and in many cases they will keep the style forever. Our social media team is also a key driver in taking the Coco community on this journey and it is a constant source of information and inspiration for our followers.

We also work closely with brands to produce exclusive styles for our customers as we are able to provide the designers with feedback on what our customers want to see from their brands for any particular time of the year. This has worked successfully to grow the profile of designers within the Coco community and also gives our customers exclusive product that has been designed and made with them in mind.

The dress category is our strongest category as this is the core of our Coco & Lola brand and customer. Whether that be dressy or casual it is still our customer’s go-to look when shopping in one of our locations or online. We provide styling and interactive videos to show our Coco community how to wear these pieces by giving them multiple ways to wear the one item. We choose to be as informative and inclusive as possible when is comes to marketing all of our garments. We also use our staff in store who are all shapes and sizes to educate the customer on sizes and fits.

How have you seen the retail market changed in recent times?

Big question as I feel like it changes daily! Obviously the biggest development in the last 10 years has been technology and the influence of social media on a customers buying behaviour. However, it’s important for retailers to use these tools to your advantage while staying true to your retail brand. The reality is, these changes have given retailers an amazing opportunity to understand and communicate with their customers like never before. It’s clear the successful retailers in today’s environment are embracing these changes and turning them into opportunities.

How have you kept pace with these changes?

Retail today is 24hrs a day, 7 days a week between online, social media and physical stores. As a retailer you have to be continually proactive about change and trying new strategies whether it’s online or in-store. I’m always thinking of a different approach or a new way to interpret a category. It’s also integral to have a team that has this same mindset as you and is fast paced and always trying to create or take advantage of new opportunities that present.

In regards to staying true to the Coco & Lola brand over the last 10 years I have found this to be relatively easy as I am a Coco girl. The Coco girl is fun, feminine, loves life and engages in multiple events throughout the year. Our girl does go out and celebrates life’s festivities like birthdays, engagements, weddings, racing carnivals and achievements. We dress them for the special moments in their life and try to make the experience one that they remember. 

What’s your advice for designers wanting to secure a stockist/break into the boutique market?

Keep persisting and getting feedback from the key stockists that your chasing. Make sure your brand has its own identity and isn’t a carbon copy of another Australian brand as it wont get the budget from the buyer as they are already providing their customers with an established brand in this space.

Never try to sell your brand to a buyer by telling them it’s like 2 or 3 other brands that they currently stock. As a buyer we love nothing more than seeing something unique that will add value to the store and delight our customers because it’s authentic..

What is your brand, tell me your story. How can we relate this story to the consumer… be more than just clothes in a lookbook. How can we work together and form a great business relationship… In some instances when I see great potential in a brand I will want to secure this label exclusively for Coco & Lola. We can then build the brand through our platform so our customers can shop and experience a unique label and the brand has automatically gained an audience. 

I’m always wanting to work in different ways with brands and create long lasting relationships. 

Any other comments?

It’s taken 10 years to get to this point.. it certainly has not been an overnight sensation. We have slowly evolved and built our customer base to what it is today. I’ve never tried to be anything else but Coco throughout the years.. staying true to my brand and how it’s being represented has been one of my core focuses. 

Opening this 260sqm boutique store in Melbourne has been one of my greatest achievements. The demand was there for a bigger more sophisticated shopping experience. We we’re able to deliver this and feel that we have created a new way to shop with stocking over 30 Australian brands under the one roof in a complete unique boutique space with Coco stylists passionate about the brands and investing in the customer long term.

Fashion Exposed Now

Fashion Exposed Now is Australia’s only dedicated womenswear buying event. Registration is free and includes access local and international labels, seminars and round table to help build your business. 

Sunday 2 – Monday 3 February 2020
Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne


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