Forging ahead in fashion

7 December 2009

Written by: Lawrie Zion

Becoming a first-time business owner is never easy. The lengthy start-up process, long hours and financial uncertainty can be particularly stressful, especially for a 19 year-old with no prior business experience.

Most entrepreneurial ventures begin after extensive market research and thorough business plans. However, in 2007, Stevie Pallister decided to dive straight into the fashion industry, opening Tiger Mist, a retail fashion outlet in suburban Eltham.

“I was doing an Arts degree and hated it. I saw the shop for lease and I was had always been interested in fashion, so I just went for it, and hoped it would work,” she said.

Pallister was confident and enthusiastic. However, the banks, suppliers and her landlord didn’t share that same optimism. “It definitely took people a while to give us a fair go; a lot of people doubted us.”

Finally, the legalities were complete and Tiger Mist opened, throwing Pallister into the highly competitive retail industry. She didn’t know at the time, but Pallister had two very strong forces working against her. The emergence of online shopping and the global financial crisis made an already risky business venture resemble a David and Goliath battle.

Despite these shaky business conditions, Pallister never became nervous or showed concern. For her, one of the benefits of running a small business is the ability to build a close connection with her customers. By listening to them, she’s been able to  learn about their needs and wants, and act accordingly.

“We started stocking cheaper items because women still wanted to buy; they just didn’t want to pay the high prices.”

Pallister and her business weathered the global financial crisis, and now,  at the end of 2009, Tiger Mist is a very healthy business, having just opened a second store in Ivanhoe and is preparing to unveil its own online store.

“An online store is the logical progression for Tiger Mist,” she says.

Pallister has recently been using the popular social media website, Facebook as a marketing tool and there are now almost 3,000 fans of Tiger Mist’s Facebook page.

Tiger Mist advertises in fashion journals and Beat Magazine but has found that Facebook is now integral part of its advertising.

In September 2009, Australian market research company, Roy Morgan, released the findings of  a study about online shopping. It concluded that more than 6.5 million Australians have bought a product or service online in the last 12 months. That’s almost 40% of the population, a 5% rise compared to the previous year.

Roy Morgan Research CEO Michele Levine has been reviewing the results of the research very carefully.   “As we see an increase in the range of products available online, together with an increase in the number of people who are comfortable giving their credit card details over the Internet, it’s not surprising that nearly half the population have bought something online,” she said.

Pallister agrees.  “There is definitely a big market for online shopping, and it is only going to get stronger and stronger.”  However she does believe that there is still a big future in retail outlets. She believes online is great for showing off the product, attracting attention and gaining market share but when it comes to clothing “There will always be a lot of shoppers who are timid about purchasing clothes online”

Pallister says customers like to try on clothes for size and make sure they will be happy wearing them, an experience not possible online.

Internet purchasing takes the fun and glamour out of shopping. Pallister believes people still enjoy spending their down time being out and about, drinking coffee at a café and going shopping.

“All girls love a bit of retail therapy with their friends; online shopping just isn’t the same.”

Ryan Jon is an honours student at Swinburne University. He is also completing a Graduate Diploma in Journalism at La Trobe University.