Glamour’s Place is the upscale boutique you can get all female corporate wears, ranging from suits, pant suits, cute dresses, shoes that flaunt the legs, elegant silver and gold party high and low shoes.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with Mrs. Abimbola Omotoso, the woman behind the brilliant idea.
How and when did you start the journey to your fashion outfit?
The journey started some 22 years ago out of the boot of my car. At the time, I worked with Texaco oil company and just had my first son. My husband wouldn’t let us leave our child with maids until the children could talk. At least, one of my blood relatives had to be at home with the house help so, I had to depend on my siblings and relatives staying with me. It was a lot of work and difficult to go to the office so I had to call it quits. When I went to have my second baby, I worked and got some money. By the way, I am a US citizen, from Chicago, Illinois, to be precise. I got my $300 pay and I used it to buy things to sell in Nigeria. At that time, I bought about 20 pairs of shoes from Payless Shoe Source, and a few dresses, with the money. When I started, I enjoyed patronage from my co-workers by allowing them pay in installments, over two months. I also had to shop for more in London because that is the airfare I could afford. I remember having to carry my baby on my back on Liverpool Street in London, looking for suits. I had him in October and had to restock in December.
How will you describe the journey so far?
I would say fulfilling and exciting. More like an epic story. Who would believe I could have left Texaco to go on to selling apparels. Thankfully, today we have branches and branches. We have a branch in Akoka, Lagos, that was where we had the Premium Hairdressing Salon, then I had a branch in Isolo. As we moved about, I opened a branch. When my husband was transferred to Port Harcourt, I opened a branch there too. When we moved back to Lagos, I opened the Opebi branch, and had maintained the Victoria Island branch for three years while away. We were in 1004 Estate then, till everyone was evacuated. Then we got the Muri Okunola branch now our head office.
Staff, stock and sustainability. On the procurement side, it could be a logistical nightmare hauling staff across continents and on the shop floor side finding and keeping good staff if anything, is a critical success factor for me. With good people working for you, I have found they quickly adapt to your work ethic and sometimes you can be far away and be rest assured they would execute almost the same way as you. However, over the years it has become increasingly difficult to get good people, perhaps this has something to do with the state of our schools. Sometimes, I get people who have left school and found it difficult to read or even do their basic addition. But even more alarming is the almost complete degradation of the motivation to put in a proper shift of work by the youth of today. Stocking can be challenging sometimes. I have to make sure I buy the best at minimal prices because of the value of the naira. Also, I have to tailor my purchases to the needs of my customers. There is a lot of calculation, brainstorming and prudence that go into these.
Sustaining customers is also a big task. We have to maintain the impression we give to our customers and get referrals for new ones.
What kind of clothing do you sell, unisex or just female. What about children’s wear?
Glamour’s Place is basically geared to serving the wardrobe needs of the working lady, mainly their suits, dresses and shoes. We do American brands like Tahari suits, Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, Kasper, Le Suit, Evan Picone, and all the likes. We also service a broad range of customers. Due to the fact that we have been around for 22 years, we have customers in their middle age. We have seen them grow in their career fields. Some of them got married, have children that had graduated from the university. Some of them have children that are getting married and some even grandparents. So, the theme has to change a little bit. We still service the beginners as well as those who have reached quite a high rank in their careers. Some of our clients used to love wearing knee-length clothes but now want it a little longer. So, we service all. That’s what I mean by all categories.
How do you meet the standards of your customers?
Meeting the standards of my customers is my joy. For shoes, to meet the standards of our clients, we stock both flats and heels. I also put it into consideration that over time heels affect ladies with age. So, I make sure we do platform or wedge shoes for the heeled ones. We also do peep toes and sling back. This helps to avoid injury in the future. Pertaining to the suits, we do long skirts, knee-length skirts, as well as long dresses and smart short dresses.
We also abide by the three hypes of glamour for outstanding service and customer satisfaction. The three hypes that the business has are first, my pricing, which is value for money with quality and originality; then, carrying all customers along by providing for all customers, and last but not the least, customer satisfaction is key
Where do you get supply for your outfits?
I buy from the US, from places like Macy’s, Dillards, JC Penney, the Mall Stores. And over the years, I have built a very credible network of resource persons in most of these stores in the US that I have mentioned.
How affordable are your wears?
Quite affordable! We have more or less brought Payless Prices to the door-steps of Nigerians and this could be put down to the strong network of resource persons I have built over the years in those stores I mentioned. I find I am able to leverage on my relationship with these people and this works for the pocket of my customers. 4,000 customers over the years and still counting should mean that people who come to my stores walk away with a smile on their faces because beyond the issue of affordability is the issue of authenticity and quality which I have catered for.
There are a lot of boutiques out there, what makes yours different and unique?
We have tried to differentiate Glamour’s Place as a quality store, that is not to say others don’t do quality but we pride ourselves in the knowledge that our customers don’t have to break bank to shop with us. We also take pride in the authenticity of what we have. Every brand name you see in my shop is original; there is no option for it to be otherwise. I also take pride in the prices because I pick the best for the least in the US, so I can slash my prices. We pride in specification of what we have. There is no specification that we do not carry. The bankers are used to solemn colours like black, navy, grey, coffee; professional colours they call it, whereas, the oil company workers like more glamour/richness in their colour. There is always a size, there is never a size constraint; never too small or too big for us. You name it we’ve got it!
How will you describe the business scene now?
If I said challenging, that would be saying the least. These days, you have to be a foreign exchange expert and a funds transfer institution of your own just to be in business not to talk of the escalating cost of the dollar which has seriously eroded margins. It’s really tough to be in business these days.
What has made the journey really exciting for you?
My results which is my reward! The results and rewards are daily as I meet new people and enjoy new company and establish new relationships every day. I have had a good source of income, developed the best of relationships, established an impressive clientele data base, and most important, I have proven the power of my God over and over again.
What would you do differently if you were to start all over again?
To embrace new technology at the speed of light so as to gain the best first mover advantage and that is the reason for our newly launched website, www.glamoursplace.com With this, in place, our customers can shop 24 hours and even view the stock before coming over. We are pretty confident the customer experience is going to get better and better.
What prompted the online store?
Observing the places I buy from in the US, like Macy’s, Dillards, JC Penney and the Mall Stores, I realised that in the future, without the online business, one might not be running a business, because people are so busy these days to go out shopping, which is why you can never under estimate the convenience of shopping on your fingertips and anywhere. Second, customers move around and you don’t want to lose the clientele, nor do you want to throw away the relationship built. I found out as a matter of fact that online businesses make more money than the actual store because it entails very little overhead. The only time they really have traffic in store is weekends and during the festive period but online is 24 hours.
How do you intend to break into the online business in Nigeria considering the large online malls?
I have looked at what could be the constraint of doing online business in Nigeria as well as the flaws presently in place. This is not about putting others down or degrading their efforts but I found out that the things they put up are different from what you actually buy. So, they deliver and you’re like, wait a minute, it’s not the same as what I saw online. This happens abroad too. I buy things online from Macy’s for example and I have to return them because it just didn’t meet my expectation.
I have decided that I would do the online and it would be different from what we have in Nigeria generally. I am going to make sure it is customer satisfaction to the fullest. If you order anything from me, expect it to be better and in no way worse. If there is any discrepancy between what it actually looks like and what the image is coming up as, we will notate it and let you know. We are also doing like they do in the US, where you can do an exchange, so you have nothing to lose. You can either come into our two stores or you ship them back with the specification of what the issue is. You exchange for whatever pleases you.
What are the concerns consumers have for online businesses?
The three constraints that affect online shoppers are quality, sizing and originality. I have quenched the originality part; it is what it is. If I say Tahari, expect an original Tahari, invoiced from the US. If I say the quality is silk, be expecting that it will be silk. The price is always right because I have my sources. Best item at minimal price is what I go for. To solve the sizing problem, we have size charts on our website for dresses, shoes and suits. All you need is a tape rule to compare the inches for the right size before buying. So, I have tackled those three challenges. So, I am very optimistic that this is going to be a great venture.
What else can people expect to experience when they come to Glamour’s Place, both online and offline?
When they come to our store, they are bound to experience a warm reception; my staff members are well trained. We establish our clients first as customers, then friends, then we grow the relationship to the level where they become part of our family. We call it Family and Friends. Customers who come in randomly for business are friends and consistent customers are family. I have customers of over 20 years. They can come in and say they are not paying a particular amount and I would accept and expect to win next time, because they are now family. I have been able to maintain longstanding relationships because I am flexible. You should expect to meet quality of standard for what you would meet if you travelled to the US. You should expect to get value for your money. I don’t expect you to come to my store, buy something and then get it cheaper elsewhere. It is not an option. Those are our trademarks.
Who is a glamorous woman?
People ask me this a lot and straight off I tell them, if you are like my mom, then you are glamorous. She might not be well known, but she is an epitome of beauty inside and out, she’s an epitome of wisdom, the love of Christ. My great attributes are from her and I’ll be forever grateful.
It’s one thing to start a business and another thing to sustain it for over 20 years. It is internalising what I have learnt from her that has helped me retain this business for over two decades?
At what point did you know this was a career path for you?
At the point I started my family life.
In five years, where do you hope to see your business outfit?
I hope to see Glamour’s Place as a household line of clothing down the line, such that every household would have something they bought from us.
- SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN