Business truths from a niche retailer

laura tenison, financial times, business diary, jojo maman bebe, clothes retailerIn a business diary column in the FT, Laura Tenison, head of the children’s and maternity clothing company JoJo Mamn Bébé which boasts 40 outlets, offers two thoughts that will be resonant for local store owners.

First, on the subject of competing with the supermarkets (niche businesses have to, too!): “Sometimes I get emails asking why we don’t put Disney characters on our sleepsuits. Yes, they might sell. But what would be the difference between us and the supermarket? If you are a niche business… you have to think long term.”

Second, on the subject of bank finance: “In July 2008, the world changed. We had planned to open eight stores that year, but managed only two because the banks refused to extend our working capital facility, even though our gearing was extremely low for a growing retailer.”

A great many company owners understand this second point. Banks are only really happy to lend you money when you don’t need to borrow. The moment you need to borrow, your creditworthiness evaporates. Never take the availability of capital from a bank for granted.


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