A womenswear boutique in Bowdon is fast becoming a destination shop for ladies across Cheshire and beyond.
Society Boutique on Vicarage Lane opened as recently as December but the knowledge and expertise behind it – that have already seen it star in an episode of the Real Housewives of Cheshire – are anything but an overnight success.
Owner Michelle McDowall, 34, was a high-flying buyer for a chain of designerwear stores when, nine years ago, she decided to go solo and set up her own fashion agency, Society Agency, based initially from a “tiny” showroom in the Northern Quarter.
She’s since moved into a much bigger building and grown it into one of the leading agencies in the UK, representing numerous well-known brands and working with top retailers including ASOS and Very.com.
But Michelle always harboured an ambition to have a physical store as well, so late last year she acquired a unit on Vale View opposite the Co-op and transformed it – with the help of local firm Cheshire Design and Build – into what must be one of the most aesthetically stunning shops in Altrincham.
Its design is heavily influenced by Michelle’s travels around Scandinavia, with rustic wood, grey paintwork and high-spec copper lighting mounted onto specially treated wooden planks.
“The idea was to make it a real showstopper, because it had to be,” said Michelle, “it needed to be off the scale in terms of impact.”
There were family reasons behind the choice of Bowdon, but the main motivation was her desire to create a “destination”.
“I wouldn’t have opened on Hale high street or in Altrincham because over the years I’ve learnt that stores that are a destination store are more successful than high street stores,” she said.
“Here you can park for free right outside my shop – that was so important to me. You can come in, have a coffee and just chill.”
Society Boutique stocks an impressive portfolio of leading brands including Mos Mosh, Woden Sneakers, Donna Ida, Keepsake, ChloBo and Ash footwear.
The look of the store and the impressive brand mix was a perfect fit for the producers of Real Housewives of Cheshire, who filmed a scene in store for the most recent series. The individual housewives are all regulars.
But Michelle is keen to stress that Society is in no way an exclusive or intimidating shop.
“We have something for everybody,” she added. “Every size, every price. You can come in here and spend £30. I don’t want us to be seen as an exclusive or expensive store – we have a great mix of brands and products to suit all budgets, ages and sizes.
“I want people to come to Society and have such a great experience that they walk away, regardless of whether they have bought or not, feeling like they have been truly looked after.”
Customer service is especially important for Michelle across the whole business – as well as the boutique and agency, the boutique also has a rapidly growing online operation. Society also hosts events and offers complimentary personal styling.
Next month, on July 6th, Michelle is hosting a ladies’ evening in store with the shop’s summer edit, with gift bags, fizz, canapés and lots of offers – plus the chance to chat with some of the designers.
“We want to give everybody a really great experience. People come in and we’ll give them a Prosecco, we’ll make them feel at home, we’ll write handwritten notes to everybody that buys something online. We’ll stay open late or open early if customers wish. We have that personal touch.. it’s all about customer service for us.”
Michelle’s plan now is to develop the boutique across its three floors into more of a concept store, as well as opening another local store at some point.
“I don’t want to run before I can walk. We want more customers, because the customers we do get are customers forever. My big aim now is to make sure that everybody in the local community knows that we’re here.”
Society Boutique, 5 Vale View, Vicarage Lane, Bowdon, Cheshire, WA14 3BD. Tel: 0161 929 5307. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more details about the ladies’ evening on July 6th, email email@example.com.