Jill Alexander, owner and designer at MADCAT Design Studio.
What is the proportion of your designer skirts and bridal wear business that comes from the baby boomer market?
A huge amount - I'd say 60 per cent. The business is not what I expected it would be. When I set it up in the early 2000s it had a strong fashion focus. I showed at Fashion Week for three years, had three shops, was selling my designs in 18 other boutiques around New Zealand and also exporting. That was the dream I was following, but it didn't work. I learned a hell of a lot through that experience, including seeing this need among baby-boomers that I feel so strongly now about filling.
How did you identify the boomer market for your products?
I've been taking the business in this direction since about 2011. I did some courses that made me think about reworking the business but I just kept thinking, 'Where are my customers coming from?' I'd make a skirt, and I'd get 30-year-old school teachers buying it and a few 70-year-olds, but it became clear that the majority of my customers were 40 to 60-year-olds. On the bridal side of my business, I tend to get second-time-around brides in their 30s and older. My brides are interested in fashion, but they're more interested in an enduring style; they're not like the young ones who want the latest film-star look.
What has worked well for you in terms of connecting with boomer consumers?
Most of my customers have either seen my skirts on someone else - and that has led them to seek me out - or they've met me at my market stall. I have a stall every Saturday with flash changing rooms. When they try on a skirt I can say, 'Why don't I just adjust this for you?' and then they can pick it up the next day or I can send it to them. I keep their measurements on file so they can come back in a year or two and pick up another skirt in a different textile. It's about establishing a relationship of trust, and offering a personal experience.
What do you plan for the future?
A lot of my customers use Facebook, but they're not reading business content there to the same extent as they would read in an email newsletter. So periodically I'll email customers to update them on what I'm doing. Say I'm going to be in New Plymouth to be at a craft market - an email lets them know so they can tell their friends. Communicating through this channel will help me develop my market further. For example, I want to start making my design runs shorter so I can offer more designs but keep them more limited. Keeping in touch over email will be a great way to keep existing customers updated about that.