“Coggles has always looked to do things differently, to offer customers an experience that they can’t get elsewhere.”
Sarah Coggles is so much more than a quirky storefront on Petergate. It is special, and completely unique not just due to their multiple mentions in Vogue or their long list of prestigious awards, but for the individual way that they retail fashion that is so unlike any other store.
The store was designed to be a trend setter, not a follower. “When the first store opened in 1976 Coggles served coffee, played music and provided play areas for husbands, all of which were unheard of at the time, and today we pride ourselves on being just as innovative.” Even the name contains a dramatic story, the remarkable woman who first set up the store named it after her husband’s mistress after she found out he was having an affair, then promptly divorced him. The shop’s immediate popularity and her faithful clientele were a bitter reminder to him of his own unfaithfulness for the rest of his life.
Coggles has continued to be at the forefront of fashion retail innovation since its explosive beginning with over 260,000 people visiting their store in York every year. “Our target audience is very diverse, but on the whole it is people primarily motivated by design and style, not necessarily by brand names.” This has a huge impact on both the website and in store. It creates a new, different kind of individual fashion that everyone is searching for, a truly unique experience of shopping from the way they encourage people to explore their shop rather than just ‘sell’ it to the up-and-coming designers that are exclusive to Coggles and limited edition books that range from £5 to £2500. Kate Inston clarifies; “one of the most significant differences is the variety of labels that we stock, you just can’t get that at the mainstream retailers. We offer our customers the opportunity to wear something that they are unlikely to see on someone else.”
But it is not just the fact that the store stocks such a variation of labels, exclusive to any other high street store. “We stock hundreds of labels from across the world each with their own history, label, philosophy, style and fit – and our staff are trained on each and every one.”
We have always been very focused on being ‘Coggles’ – doing things differently
Inston gives us an insight into how they manage to stay at the forefront, “We have always been very focused on being ‘Coggles’ – doing things differently. This, along with a distinctive identity and ensuring this comes across in all that you do is the best way to stay individual and build a strong brand.”
A huge part of the distinctive ‘Coggles’ brand has been their website, Coggles.com which is set to revolutionise online fashion shopping. Inside information tells us that the new multi-million pound investment into the company will be used to help the website grow and compete with brands such as Net-A-Porter, Topshop and ASOS. Their website will vary from the traditional fashion online shopping, as it focuses just as much on other areas of design, from music to art, books and bikes.
Not only does Sarah Coggles cater to the customers’ needs, they pay attention to their staff, who in turn, repay the company’s consideration. “Working for an independent retailer has so many benefits”, Inston explains, “Coggles is particularly good at spotting talent early and nurtures their staff, bringing them up through the ranks…this is something that is hard to find in a more corporate fashion environment.” With the new investment the company is set for even more exciting developments, setting themselves the innovative task of partnering with young emerging talent in the fashion industry from designers to stylists and photographers. They plan to assault the market with advertising campaigns and even hint at the exciting prospect of some new store openings. So for those who wish to take inspiration from Sarah Coggles and their uniquely innovative success, I leave you with this quote:
“If you want to be competitive in fashion…be prepared to take risks and behave differently rather than trying to imitate others.”