Page 5 - MarketTimesDecember2015
P. 5

  Market Times • December 2015
The Closet Queen reigns supreme
MOVE over Mary Portas. There’s a new queen of the High Street — and in her own words she’s “a big, blonde bird from Barnsley”.
Since launching her ladies fashion business on Barnsley Market, Claire Swallow has collected a devoted customer base who describe her as the Gok Wan of the market.
Her business has more than 6,000 followers on Facebook, and she is being wooed by market managers keen for her to open a stall on their markets after she wowed the audience at the National Association of British Market Authorities’ annual conference.
Claire says she was inspired to start her business by her own experience of walking round shopping malls in tears because she couldn’t find anything stylish to wear in her size 18 to 20.
“I’ve definitely got the gift of the gab,” said Claire, who is 34 and has two young children, Lyden, six, and Eden, two.
“After school my first job was as a PA, then I joined a travel company and worked my way up to a managerial role,” said Claire.
She excelled in sales, so last year she decided to follow her dream and start her own business selling fashionable clothes.
She started to trade on Barnsley market on Saturdays while still employed, and soon decided that the business was viable — so she took the plunge.
“It’s not just about selling clothes,” Claire explained. “I know how bad it makes you feel to not be able to find the right clothes and I want to find just the right outfits for my customers so that they feel really good about themselves.”
Claire sells all sizes from eight to 28, and has rapidly built up a loyal customer base on Barnsley’s outdoor market on Fridays and Saturdays.
Her warmth and the personal service she offers has helped her to gain a cult following.
“I always make a big effort to help,” Claire said. “My customers have started calling me the Gok Wan of the market, but I tell them I’m not Gok Wan, I’m a big blonde bird from Barnsley.”
Claire has embraced every kind of marketing tool in the book. She is a prolific user of social media to promote her business and the market, and she is equally adept at using loud hailers and market barrows to bring people to the market.
“My biggest bugbear is that I only have a permanent stall on the Friday market, and I have to turn up on Saturday and hope there is a pitch for me,” she said.
To get round it she has gained a pedlar’s licence, which enables her to place a barrow in
the town centre to direct people to wherever she may be in the market.
She believes in traders helping each other, and is not averse to touring the market with a megaphone to promote other traders.
Claire adores the market life and advises other traders to adopt the latest marketing techniques that have gained her customers from all over the UK as well as Denmark and Germany.
“Facebook is a fantastic marketing tool and it is free,” she said. She has established her own website — — and launched a click and collect service that allows people to buy online and collect the item from her market stall.
She also offers a next day delivery service for £3.99 per item.
As well as her market stall and online presence, she has taken up a range of marketing opportunities, from taking part in the mayor’s parade to putting on a fashion show that raised £3,000 for Barnsley Hospice.
Claire said: “My dream is to have a really bustling, successful, traditional market-based business. I don’t particularly want to move into a shop. I started on the market because of the low-risk, low-rent opportunity, but it’s where I want to continue to be because of the interaction with people.”
She believes the market is the best place for her business, which relies on warmth, friendliness and personal service, not to mention value for money.
“I’m on a bit of a mission, and the market is the place for me,” she said.

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