New chain for Diva founders

After the runaway success of Diva, coming up with an even better encore was always going to be a challenge for Colette and Mark Hayman. But they’ve done it. 

The launch of a new retail concept is always bound to be the subject of scrutiny by fellow retailers, especially one with plans to open 120 stores within three years.

But the launch of Colette Accessories’ first store at Sydney’s Macquarie Centre has drawn more than just a passing glance from fellow accessories retailers.

The brainchild of the founders of the Diva accessories chain, Colette and Mark Hayman, Colette Accessories may be just the wake-up call Mark Hayman says the crowded accessories market needs.

Within the first week of opening, the store had seen the buying director of Diva pop by, identify herself and purchase 40 items. Strandbags was hot on their heels, working out the corporate credit card.

Mark Hayman told Inside Retailing Magazine the idea behind Colette Accessories was not to take on other operators, but to forge a new space within the accessories category.

Colette stocks what Hayman terms a “wholistic accessories offering”, with 50 per cent of its products fashion bags and the other 50 per cent made up of jewellery, belts, hair accessories, perfume, make-up and a small range of stationery.

“We identified a gap in the market very similar to when we looked at starting Diva – back then there wasn’t a branded fashion accessory store, and in a similar vein now, there is no branded handbag chain servicing the volume market in that 15 to 30 years age bracket,” Hayman said.

colette store

“Those consumers are buying their bags from Sportsgirl, or Witchery or even places I don’t see as being traditional fashion operations like luggage and bag retailers Strandbags and Victoria Station.”

The husband and wife team started Diva in 2002, selling out to Brett Blundy’s BB Retail Capital in November 2007. There are now 160 Diva stores in Australia and more than 200 internationally.

Colette Hayman, well known in the retail arena and credited as having once been the driving force behind Diva, is buying director for the infant brand.

“Retail is a space we love being in, and we’ve always been in fashion in some way. We took a bit of time out after we set up some Diva operations around the world, but after that we just missed it,” Hayman said.

“We’re very much hands on operators, and we have two of our daughters working in the business now to give us a chance to pass on some of those lifetime skills.”

Colette’s shopfit is designed to present a more “luxurious” feel than the Haymans’ previous projects (Mark Hayman was also responsible for bringing the 3 telco brand to Australian retailing), moving customer focus to “the product not the people”.
“We’ve moved away from very white, bright lights and into moodier lighting and we’ve removed the ceiling of the Macquarie Centre store altogether,” he explained.

colette store

The stores, which will average 85sqm, use black wallpaper with silvery gold prints, light tiled floors, black fittings and pendant lighting. Environmental aspects have also been taken into consideration with paper tags and bags used instead of plastic.

“Zara and H&M and other global companies offer a good shopfit, a good identity, and their prices remain at medium to low pricepoints.

“We will present a boutique feel, but not necessarily at boutique prices, because we want to be in most of the shopping centres across the country, and that is a huge cross section. Most of the stores will be in big centres.

“While Mimco and Oroton service the more expensive end of the fashion market and are very good operators, they do not necessarily cater to the mass market, which was our initial thinking in creating the Colette brand.”

Despite the more upmarket feel the store fitout is aiming to capture, Colette pricepoints cater to the mass market, with bags retailing for under $100 and jewellery selling for less than $20 per piece.

Hayman observed that the fashion accessories market has become increasingly crowded in recent years, and although there are some good businesses, he says many lack fashionability.

“Colette is very fashion forward. We’re trying to move away from the tween-y image of accessories. We’re not just offering basics. We don’t want to come out and be the same. The market is too crowded to think we could make headway doing the same thing everyone else is doing.

“What’s really missing from the sector is a bit of maturity in how you present and how you pull a store together.

“We’re looking to have a more styled up store so that people can walk out and hold their purchases high and feel proud they have bought from Colette.

“A lot of other competitors are bringing the product in, but they are not necessarily getting the right image, service and feel.”

The first rollout of 15 stores will see two Colette stores open in Melbourne, one in Brisbane, one in Perth and the balance in Sydney.

The second rollout, to take place over August and September, will herald the first Adelaide location, as well as more stores for Queensland, NSW and Victoria. By next December around 70 Colette stores are expected to be trading.

“What’s really missing from the sector is a bit of maturity in how you present and how you pull a store together. ”

This feature first appeared in Inside Retailing Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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