Theo Paphitis Talks Pants (and Bras)
Born out of a love for lingerie, nightwear, swimwear and all things romantic, Boux Avenue opened the doors of it's new store in Nottingham recently.
I caught up retail mogul and former Dragons' Den star Theo Paphitis who cut the ribbon at the high-end lingerie shop at the official opening at the intu Victoria Centre.
Firstly, welcome to Nottingham. Is it the first time you've been here?
No, I've been here many many times and I've got businesses in Nottingham. Nottingham is our 30th store as you probably know, but its not because we left Nottingham until last. Nottingham was meant to be our tenth store and it fell through. We opened 6 within a week in 2011 and then we had an opening program and Nottingham was number 10 then it fell through. About 18 months ago we got a call from the centre saying 'You know you were keen to open in Nottingham, well the stores available if you're interested' We'd seen a few others and they weren't right. Then when we looked at it, of course it was the same bloody store that fell through in 2011, so we said go on then, and we signed the lease and waited to get vacant possession. It's been a long drawn out winded affair but we made it.
Well it's looking lovely
Thank you very much. They say you leave the best for last.
So why Nottingham? I know you wanted a branch in the Midlands, but why Nottingham as opposed to Derby for example?
Derby's great, it's lovely place, but when we launched Boux it was a web business, it wasn't stores and we wanted about 20, maybe 25 stores covering big shopping malls and obviously Nottingham is one of those big shopping malls and we started opening our stores and going online and we knew where our customers were coming from so we always had a strong demand for Nottingham, but we didn't have a store so when the the store came, you know, it was important. A lot of customers shop with us on line and go in store and the great thing about our stores is, they're great, they're lifestyle, they're about you, it's all about you, it's not about anyone else. Our staff are City & Guilds accredited, the only bra fitting staff in the UK that are. We're passionate about lingerie and lingerie looks great online and it's easy to get to you, but also people want to see it sometimes, they want to feel it, they want to be measured, they want to know what its all about, and that's really for us the key part.
So, going back to the naming of the business, I read that it was inspired by a French waitress?.
Inspired is a good word. Yes in Monaco, it was great. When we were launching Boux originally, it was a clean piece of paper and the girls in the office were saying, because we've all been involved in lingerie before, we're in the pub and we're writing on a napkin, if you have a clean piece of paper and there's no legacy, no brand. What would it be? What would the store look like and they were very quickly sketching out what it would look like and all the things it would stand for - you know, it would be confidence, sassy, sexy, practical, all about you, individualism - and confidence is a key part of that and that's what Boux is, and the name really, it epitomizes that and that epitomizes the name, it's about feeling that confident person and feeling good about yourself and being able to take on whatever the day is gonna give you because if you're feeling bad, you're not going to perform well during the day. If you're dressed badly, you haven't got the same confidence as if you're dressed brilliant and lingerie is the most intimate, the closest part of any clothing you've got and it starts from there. If you're feeling good inside and you got good clothes on outside, you've got that confidence and you can go through the day feeling that confidence. I'm not saying that every day is going to be a red letter day but it has to start from there and it's got to be about you. When you walk into the store, our staff are like that, the products made for that, and it's not meant to be outlandishly aggressive at all, it's about confidence, achieving what you want to achieve as a person, however you want to achieve it.
So it's a brand for every woman?
Yes, because, we all have different ways of getting what we want, but its about having the confidence of being you.
There isn't a figure or woman that personifies the brand, such as the waitress?
As it happens, she personified a big part of the brand, somebody that was very confident, knew herself, knew what she was about, took care about herself. It doesn't mean she was dressed up to the nines but cared about every part of herself and that for me was the informed part, it was the detail. You look round the store and there's a lot of detail and that really for me was partly the inspiration. and the name isn't exactly right but it gave birth to Boux.
You can see in the store that you support Breast Cancer Care. I've been through breast cancer myself, had reconstruction. Do you cater for women that have been through the same?
Listen, it is one of those things that even after all these years, I'm staggered that still exists. Its just unbelievable with all the technology and everything. I know the survival rate now is tremendous but we still haven't got to the cause. We work with Breast Cancer Care in what we do and consult with them when we do our City & Guilds Accreditation. The training we give our colleagues is to take that into account. Everything I said to you earlier about the brand and the confidence and everything else is even more relevant in this particular case because you know. its such an important thing for a woman and we want everybody who leaves the store feeling good so our product takes as much of that into account as it possibly can and all the time we're saying to people, is there anything we've missed because that's the question we've got to ask all the time. Its difficult. You cant positively discriminate. Some people don''t want to talk about it and you've got to respect that but at the same time you've got to respect that and say its alright, you know. this is life, come and talk to us about it and we can help you get the right fit, make you look a million dollars because, you know, if you're looking a million dollars, believe you me, you're gonna be acting like a million dollars and that goes back to the original ethos of what Boux is all about.
You were quoted as saying that the brand is growing internationally at a fantastic rate in comparison to the UK. what do you think the reason for that is?
Well it's design, product and obviously the difficulties in the retail market, not just in the UK, it's everywhere at the moment, but what we've shown is that it's a specialist product and we're a specialist destination and it's about knowing your customers and we work hard on that, we work hard to know our customers.
How much influence do you actually have over the products?
Personally? Nothing, I don't go anywhere near it, there's talented people behind this that know what they're doing?
So you don't cast an eye over it?
Oh I do, I look at brand and make sure the stuff excels the value of the brand and is on brand and if somethings not on brand I'll say, its not on brand - doesn't mean its a bad product but it's not on brand. Friends, family will tell me if somethings not right or they're not happy with something. I'll feed that back to the team and what we do learn, as much as we try, we can't be everything to all men and women, that would be very very difficult but we do our best and I think that's the important thing, actually listening to your customers and trying to work with your customers all the time about the designs that are coming in and that's a very very strong part of our brand. It is that design element which is something that we'll work tirelessly on actually improving and I think you'll see with some of the new collections in the store at the moment and some of the new collections coming through, it's going to be even more reeven than it is now because you've got to set yourself apart from everyone else.
So what are the future plans for Boux?
Continue growth, continue on line. Store growth I think will be limited because as I said to you, the idea is we're a web business with stores and Nottingham is one of the last few places we wanted to be in. There are one or two others but not many, it's got to be the right store and we know where our customers are where they're shopping with us and where they want us to be so that's important for us, and just keep growing and make sure that we get better and better, increase categories. This year we're announcing the family Christmas range so that's new, we've done active wear, so category increases is really where we go from here.
For more information visit: https://www.bouxavenue.com
Love T xx