Kim Jackson and Mark Necus, of children’s footwear retailer Klodhoppers, Hove and Haywards Heath.

Q&A

Name: Klodhoppers Ltd
Shop(s): Hove and Haywards Heath
Brands: Hush Puppies, Lelli Kelly, Timberland, Birkenstock, Richter, Petasil, Hummel, Hunter, Joules, Hi-tec, Crocs, Salamander, Superfit, Converse, Vans, Bobux.
Home town: Hove
Family: Husband and wife team – Kim Jackson & Mark Necus with one son (aged 20!).

klodhoppersHow did you get into footwear?
Tell us about your background and your current business?
Both of us studied Hospitality Management and Tourism at Brighton University, and while Mark continued to work in hotels and restaurants, Kim worked for an airline (Air Europe). Unfortunately the airline went out of business, so Kim had a complete change of direction and became Environmental Education Officer for Brighton and Hove City Council, a post that she held for 19 years. At the same time, she worked as Owner/Part Time employee at Klodhoppers. Four years ago she joined Klodhoppers Full-Time.

Where are your premises located and how many people do you employ?
Do you have a high turnover of staff? Tell us about your shop(s), the local area, your customers and their requirements?
Our Hove store is in Blatchington Road, which is located in the main shopping area of Hove. The town of Haywards Heath is not as big as Hove and the store is located just 100 metres from the main shopping street.

The shops have orange and purple colour schemes, and each has a total area of approximately 1000 square metres, of which around 45% is actual sales area. Although just 15 miles apart, the 2 towns are very different to each other in demographics and taste – Hove customers have more choice  on their doorstep and are keen to go for more daring colours. That said, Haywards Heath customers are very discerning and certainly know what they like. They recognise good quality products when they see them. We try to give them this and at the same time introduce them to new styles and brands.

Both stores are less than a five minute walk from a branch of Clark’s and we feel that this can often work to our advantage.
We currently employ five staff, comprising one full-timer and four part-timers, although we are currently interviewing for more staff for the Spring/Summer and Back To School season.
We are very fortunate in that our staff turnover
is low.

Do you have an online shop/website and do you use social networking for business?
We currently sell on-line on Amazon, Ebay and our own store (www.klodhoppers.com). We also have a very active Facebook (klodhoppers-kids-shoes) and Twitter presence (@klodhoppers1).

How are you finding the footwear market currently?
We’ve just come out of a very harsh winter trading-wise, but are very excited at the prospect of the new season – customers are definitely fed up with the drab winter weather and wellies!
They are keen to find the brighter colours and lighter shoes of the new season.

What’s selling well? Any particular trends? Which are your best selling footwear brands – and why?
The new season’s Hummels are selling very well. It’s a great range of colours with a retro style at a great price. As the only kid’s stockist in both areas we have been able to promote the product quite strongly. We have also become stockists of Havaianas and are very excited  about that.  Our established brands are as popular as ever and continue to sell well – Crocs, Lelli Kelly and Hush Puppies, Converse and Vans. One brand that we have been very impressed with is Froddo – the styles are very simple and attractive and we have noticed that our customers are impressed by the quality. Superfit is relatively new for us and is proving to be a very popular brand due to it’s robust but stylish nature. Their trainers are of excellent quality and durability.

How important is shoe fitting to your business?
Are you or any of your staff members of the Society Of Shoe Fitters?
Shoe fitting is an intrinsic part of our business. Kim is a member of the Society of Shoe Fitters, and all of our staff have attained the Hush Puppies Professional Fitting Certificate. In-house training is on-going, carried out by Kim or other guests – last November we had a bespoke training session entitled ‘The Magic Slipper’ which focused on identifying the needs and requirements of the customer and how to deliver them.

Does your shop sell other items besides footwear, bags, gloves, tights, socks, below the ankle products?
Accessories include gloves, polishes, hair accessories/jewellery, socks, tights, hats, waterproof gloves, thermal socks, umbrellas, scarves, jibbitz, backpacks, lunchboxes, rainsuits and laces.

Any difficulties/problems?
Just the usual – anticipating customers’ needs, ordering the right product (and quantity), maintaining good relations with our suppliers and keeping the Bank Manager happy!

Any tips on stock offers, novel ideas for clearing lines or advice for independent shoe retailers who might be feeling the pinch?
There are numerous ways, not all of which may be appropriate, but they could include:-
Building links with local interest groups, e.g. music clubs, pre-school groups, nurseries, etc
Looking at your products and seeing what’s been on the shelves a long time – how can you move it – Clearance Rack/Pre-season Sale?

What is your favourite ladies footwear brand/manufacturer – ditto men’s/children’s
brand – and why?
Kim’s favourite brand is Irregular Choice, but sadly we don’t stock it!! Kim loves the wacky and unusual styles – her personal shoe taste is definitely ‘off the wall’.

Mark likes all his shoes, no matter what brand. But his favourite is a pair of cruddy old black Reebok trainers that he cycled in and which helped him raise over £10000 for charity.

How do you select your products – which criteria do you use / what are your customers looking for?
We set a budget, or look at what’s been repeated (and which historically has been a good seller) and then finally look our suppliers in the eye and ask them ‘Have you sold much of this’!

Which footwear/fashion shows do you attend, how do you rate them?
We go to February Moda – the August one is difficult due to Back To School. Exhibitions are good if you have an objective, e.g. you’re looking for a specific product. We go to stock rooms, but will also be going to Pure and Bubble, as it may be that there will be something there that isn’t at Moda.

Do you have a favourite footwear agent?
We like to think we have good relationships with each of our suppliers, many of whom we have been trading with since we opened back in 2005!

Have you always had a passion for footwear?
Yes! (Kim)

How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Too many! (Mark)

Do you have a favourite pair?
They’re all favourites, but… I did buy a fabulous pair of black leather ankle boots with studs from Kurt Geiger, and a beautiful pair of green Irregular Choice with birds on them, and…….(Kim)

Any famous customers?
No one famous as ‘regulars’, but we have served Zoe Ball, Nick Cave, Sally Gunnell, Simon Evans, Greta Scacchi .

And, the next step? Any plans for the future, new lines, retail systems/new technology, etc.?
We’re always looking at new brands, hence our stocking Havaianas. We are also proud to be selling Ricosta now. We are looking at new technology to enable multi-channelling but have yet to arrive at a decision.