Feathers to 40

Founded by Margaret Porritt in 1972, Feathers joins Ragtrader in celebrating 40 years in business. Porritt looks back on her time ahead of Ragtrader's special 40th Year Edition, out next month.

I believe in the saying; "In the face of adversity comes great things”; and for me Feathers is one of those great things.

The brand that began with a little dress shop in the city of Melbourne has grown up to be my pride and joy. This year, that little dress shop celebrates 40 years in business.

It’s hard to believe that my first little dress shop has grown into six boutiques and seven Myer stores. Every decade of the past 40 years has taught me something new and every knock has been a valuable lesson.

Through experiences I’ve learned in retail, you have to be open to new ideas, you have to keep up with the times and adapt to change. You can’t be stuck in your ways. If it doesn’t work, just keep changing it until you get it right.

Everyone makes mistakes and all mistakes can be turned into a positive experience. I should know, I’ve made the most expensive mistakes!

However, my vision for the brand remains the same today as it was 40 years ago; to add value to women’s lives and make them feel good about themselves. You can’t underestimate the power of self-confidence.

Feathers is more than a business. It’s a family. I have ‘girls’ still working for me after 25 years. I was doing ‘family friendly’ hours and ‘work life balance’ before the phrase was even coined. I know better than most that a happy mother equals happy husband and happy children.

It is a joy for me to be able to support my staff and in doing so, bring happiness to their families. Many of my staff have left to have their children and then come back into the Feathers fold.

I can honestly say that despite good and difficult times I have never “worked” a day in my life. Feathers is passion, a source of joy for me and everyday going to the office or the shops is not work it’s a passion that has spanned 40 years.

There really is no better training ground for the next generation than working on the floor. Talking to customers, working with the store staff, trying things on, seeing product on customers, changing the VM displays and constantly reviewing the stores and product.

I see the new talent that is coming through the ranks and it excites me to see what the next generation will do with retail in this country. There is a huge opportunity for growth and success.

My advice to the up and comers is find a master, seek out who you believe is successful in your chosen field and do what you can to work with them.

Work for a company you admire or intern for them. Work for free if you have to! Show up and get involved – ask questions, show initiative and you will succeed.  Watch how a business works – what works and what doesn’t. Absorb all that you can.

Although times are tough in retail I still insist on offering exceptional, old fashioned customer service both in the boutiques and online.

Bricks and clicks will never replace bricks and mortar, it’s simply an exciting new channel attracting a different customers.

Regardless, we strive to provide a fabulous holistic Feathers brand experience. Our aim has always been and will always be total customer happiness.

And now my loyal customers bring their daughters into the shops and they will bring their daughters and so on.

Feathers offers generations of women the opportunity to wear great quality designer styles at an affordable price.

I’m extremely proud of that.

The four keys to retail success really are simple; the right People are critical to your brand, they need to be people that get you and your vision; position – the right locations can make or break; product – needs to be flexible, you need to listen to your customer and find your niche and; marketing – when times are tough invest in your marketing, most brands cut back budgets but marketing is a strength when hard times hit.  

I am sincerely thankful to all who have shared this journey with me.  Celebrating 40 fabulous years of Feathers this year has brought such joy to me and the Feathers team and here’s looking forward to the next fabulous 40 years.

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