Selling “treasures” online in the fast-growing fashion accessories space: Q&A with Tesoros
With my CannySites.com business traditionally focusing upon stores in the home, garden and holidays space, it’s fair to say that fashion probably hasn’t been my hottest area of retail expertise up to now.
Happily, that’s starting to change since I launched the Fashion & Style Directory back in February, with my life starting to embrace discussions of illusion dresses, wireless bras, and vintage-style cravats.
From developing this new site, and building lots of relationships (mainly through the @FSDFashionTips Twitter account) with the fashion community, one thing that’s become clear is just how large and creative the fashion accessories market is – embracing shoes, jewellery, bags, belts, scarves, hats, and everything else that consumers buy and use to add that finishing touch to their outfits.
Moreover, at the excellent Fashion Digital UK conference that I attended in London this week, we heard from Justin Opie of IMRG that fashion accessories were the fastest-growing area of online shopping – showing a 403% increase in sales over the last five years – while Avid Larizadeh from accessories specialist Bottica highlighted how accessories can “represent you and your personality” even when others are wearing the same clothes.
Against this backdrop, it’s no surprise that there are so many interesting independent accessories stores and makers, all looking for a slice of the growing, but highly competitive, online pie. One of those businesses that I’ve come to know via Twitter is Wearside-based Tesoros, which badges itself as the “home of beautiful and unusual accessories”, and complements its ranges of bags, gloves, scarves and jewellery with a collection of trinkets for the home.
So, I spoke to Maxine Purdy, the founder and owner of Tesoros, about how she is successfully running her own business alongside a full-time day job, how she’s looking to differentiate the business through the uniqueness of the product and quality of the customer service, and the activities she’s undertaking in the physical space to help Tesoros reach a wider audience than it could do solely online.
Q. Tell me a little bit about your business – where is it based, what’s its history, and what does it do?
Imagine sauntering through the ancient alleyways of Palma, Malaga or other Spanish cities. Not only will these narrow cobbled lanes provide welcome shade from the piercing sun, but they also hide beautiful shops many tourists never see.
The Spanish have an instinctive flair for display. A sparkling necklace may dangle from a vintage style mirror, a scarf elegantly draped through a handbag sitting on a dining table. This eclectic mix of fashion and home accessories is the inspiration for Tesoros (Spanish for “treasures”).
By day and many evenings, I am still employed full time in a leadership role in education in the North East of England. With the end of that very successful career within touching distance, I began to explore how to set up a business that that would emulate this Mediterranean styling.
Within weeks I had located a company in Florence, Italy to provide luxurious handbags, and stockists of fairtrade handwoven scarves and pashminas, home accessories, fine leather gloves and unusual pieces of fashion jewellery including vintage-style bangles and freshwater pearls.
I am continually researching the latest looks from the world’s catwalks so that we can stock a product that will make a key difference – where customers can add one accessory to update an outfit already in the wardrobe. It’s amazing how a scarf, bag or piece of jewellery can change a whole look.
Q. And what’s your own role in the business?
As the owner of the business I am responsible for every aspect, including deliberating for hours over the products we wish to sell. With experts in the fields of design and website building, our online presence is continuing to develop and grow. Although we have our website, the challenge is to offer a personal service by ensuring every customer is valued and receives a personalised response at some point during their purchase.
I keep in regular touch via an email newsletter which is more than just a sales pitch. Articles review fashion, look at celebrations, comment on events and what celebrities wear, as well as offering advice about caring for your accessories.
Our amazing 6ft 5in photographer is the most patient of men, fiddling with tiny earrings to get the perfect shot whilst I create, recreate and redesign the backdrops. When it comes to stocktaking or events, my family are very supportive… and in the first few years of business every entrepreneur needs a reliable back-up team.
Q. What’s your business model, and why? Is it bricks, clicks or both?
From the outset, I carried a picture in my head so that Tesoros would entice customers looking for something a little different.
A Northumbrian company called Tent built the Tesoros website and it is stunning. This is our main source of sales but Tesoros also attends local large fairs, the details of which are kept up to date on the website. It will be difficult to find us as there are usually queues of excited ladies and browsing gentlemen wanting to get a glimpse of our displays.
Tesoros also offers home parties or special evenings for groups and this is also proving the perfect way for busy professionals to shop and entertain friends whilst earning discount for themselves.
Q. Looking forward, what do you see as the greatest opportunities for a business like yours at the moment?
There are so many huge national companies aiming for the teenage and early twenties market that clients over 26, who want beautiful products without paying London designer prices, are relieved to find Tesoros.
Combine exquisite pieces with personal service and regular newsletters then you have a company that can guarantee satisfaction. I believe that there are very good reasons why period dramas are so popular with viewers – it’s because there are aspects of the past that many would like to cling to, and one of those is individuality and the other is the Mr. Selfridge ethos of personal service.
Our customers are confident in their appearance and lifestyle. Their homes and furniture usually have a modern classic theme, often with a simple contemporary twist, and what Tesoros can offer is the one piece that complements the look they achieve so effortlessly.
Q. And what about the main challenges?
The main challenge is our ability to continue to locate and select accessories that are a little unusual, and at a mid-range price, yet are very good quality.
The market in fashion accessories is flooded with cheap products with a very short life but we prefer low volume, smaller profit, and repeat customers.
So far we have been lucky to source fine quality accessories that fit into our ethos but, should we ever find the quality is not as we expect, we will simply not use the same wholesaler.
As Tesoros grows, we need to resist bulk buying as the charm of Tesoros is that customers seek out a gorgeous rope of coloured freshwater pearls that only they will be wearing at the party or in the office.
Q. Where do you hope your business will be in five years’ time?
In five years Tesoros will have solid foundations, an ever-increasing customer base and, as I will be working full time within the company, we shall be able to expand to include national advertising campaigns.
The population is an aging population with babies from the 50s, 60s and 70s holding the spending power so this is where we will continue targeting our campaigns while not forgetting the younger professional market.
Because professionals work such long hours, Tesoros will be in demand for special evenings in places of work. Busy people no longer wish to spend their weekends amongst panicky shoppers in large malls yet they still like to touch or try on accessories. This will be the way forward for shoppers in the next few years.
Q. And any final thoughts or comments that you’d like to add?
I just love this company. It’s a total joy to own.
Retailer Q&A is a format where Soult’s Retail View talks to retailers – large or small, and whether bricks, clicks or multichannel – about their current innovations, aspirations and challenges. As always with Soult’s Retail View, the features are not paid for – it’s all about providing interesting stories and content for the blog’s readers. If you run a retail business and are interested in taking part in the feature, please drop me an email or a tweet.
Remember, my retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, also works with retailers nationwide to improve their stores, customer communications and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com.