From taking the leap and opening an online store to finding the perfect frock, we get the lowdown from Periscope owner, Shantha Cokis.
1. Can you tell me a little about your background and your decision to open the Periscope store in 1998?
I came out of uni with an honours degree in psychology and then worked in the public sector, but it wasn’t what I really loved. Then when I had a career break in the late 1990s I studied design, patternmaking and sewing at TAFE, and I was hooked. I started designing and opened Periscope and I’ve had it ever since.
2. How did the decision to go online come about?
The decision to go online coincided with our move from King Street in Perth’s CBD to the inner city location of Northbridge. It was important to have an online presence to maintain a connection with our customers during that transition.
3. Was it a scary leap? Did you get help creating it?
It wasn’t so scary! It was never going to replace the physical experience of shopping in our boutique. We saw it more as an extension of what we already did, and an opportunity for after hours “window shopping”. The social media channels also offered a different way of engaging with the public.
We were lucky to have worked with a talented young web designer who shared our aesthetic and the whole process was relatively simple and painless.
4. Do you have a team to help you manage it now?
We are a very small business, so essentially I myself manage most of the day-to-day activity of the online store in terms of creating and uploading content. We also have some amazing specialists to turn to when we need ‘Big Picture’ help and advice, and are lucky to have a close relationship with a talented digital marketing consultant based in LA, who is just an email away.
We do some of the photography ourselves in our studio, which is right above the shop, and take a lot of pride in this. We also use campaign and product photos from many of the labels we stock.
5. Have you found managing online-specific processes like size queries and returns tricky?
We haven’t had a lot of issues with managing queries or returns. Returns can definitely be tricky, and sometimes we find it’s better to pick up the phone, have a chat, and work it out so that the customer is happy.
6. Have you been happy with SecurePay as your payment gateway?
We have been very happy with SecurePay as our payment gateway. When we’ve needed help reversing a payment or processing a refund they have been so friendly. It’s good to know we can just call up and get help straight away.
7. Do you see the online store as a support for the Perth store or has it taken off in it’s own right?
Our online store definitely works to support our bricks and mortar store. Many times our customers mention that they had seen something they like on our online store, but we love that they come in to see us and try things on, and get our help to choose an outfit. Having said that, it is definitely handy for those customers who can’t easily pop in to be able to buy online, so it’s a win win!
Sometimes we get phone calls from customers who have seen something online but have questions about the fabric or fit, and we can describe it to them, and that gives them the confidence to then buy.
8. Do people approach you as a potential stockist and what are you looking for?
We are approached all the time by new and established brands, and sometimes we find a label that excites us and we approach them. We look for labels that have a point of difference, and that magic ingredient varies so much from label to label. It could be their design philosophy, or that they produce only small quantities, or use only organic fabrics. Whatever it is, we strive to find brands that have an individual and authentic voice that engages with our customers.
9. What styles have been popular with your customers in 2016?
Dresses are always popular with our customers, whether they are formal, casual or somewhere in between. We find that the best dresses are the ones that can be worn to many different occasions, and dressed up or down. It’s always exciting to find the perfect dress!
10. Any interesting plans or predictions for 2017?
Our big news for 2017 is that we are launching the Periscope label. This will be our own in-house collection available exclusively at Periscope, online as well as in-store. We’re really excited to be getting back into design, and adding something new for our customers. Stay tuned!