Cheryl Taylor, Editor, talks to Independent Footwear Retailer Irene Astley of Imelda’s, Norwich. Q&A:

Name: Irene Astley Shop: Imelda's

Brands: Fly London, Irregular Choice, Vagabond, Miss L Fire, Tamaris, Felmini, Wolky, Strive, Alpe, Superga, DM's

Home Town: Norwich

Family: Husband and two children, Seb 17 and Izzy 14.

How did you get into footwear? Tell us about your background and your current business? I studied fashion management at London College of Fashion. I worked on the buying floor for Topman/Topshop. Moved home to Norwich for the summer and set Imelda's up in April 1994. Norwich had and still has lots of independent retailers, but little fashion footwear on offer, so I was inspired to give it a go. It was the era of Red or Dead, Shellys and Buffalo, none available in Norwich. So that is what we started with and a brand that is no more, Judi and Herbert Toe, in small premises in the Norwich lanes and have moved twice to get to our current site.


Where are your premises located and how many people do you employ? Do you have a high turnover of staff? The shop sits at the entrance to the Norwich Lanes. We house the Norwich concession of Irregular Choice in our back room, a great addition. I have one full time lady and several part timers. I am very lucky as most of my staff stay with me for a long time. We have a loyal customer base our customers like to shop and support local. That’s how we have survived this long. I would say most of my customers are 30 plus, lots have foot issues, so feel very at home when we know the bits they want to cover, but still want to feel excited by their footwear.

Do you have an online shop/website and do you use social networking for business? We have a website for information purposes, but not for buying. We use Facebook and Instagram for showcasing new products and are happy to do ‘phone payments for shipping.

How are you finding the footwear market currently? This year has been a tough one. Footfall is down, but the good weather has been the boost we have needed. People are price sensitive and there has been a hike in prices with poor exchange rates and margins have never been great on footwear, it’s hard to keep competitive. It doesn't look like it will improve anytime soon, so we have to get on with it.

What’s selling well? Any particular trends? Which are your best selling footwear brands – and why? Fly London is consistently good for us. The customers like them they wear well comfortable and look good. Certain styles are great bunion coverers! Irregular Choice does well for us as we have such a great selection. A lot of our older customers love the fun value and will often pop in for a pick me up. A sweet shop for adults.

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