Ten Question Interview with Shirley from Mirari Lingerie BoutiqueWednesday, April 22nd, 2015
The lingerie and swimwear specialist Mirari based in Antelope Walk has now been trading in Dorchester for over 12 years and since 2004 Shirley Ryan has owned and run the business. We took the opportunity to catch up with Shirley at her busy boutique to try and find out the secret of her success and how she strives to keep her faithful clientèle (and their partners!) happy.
1. What is the history behind Mirari, and what made you want to open up shop here in Dorchester?
Mirari was started in 2003 by Tracey who owns Wedding Time in Dorchester – she wanted a shop where all her brides could get lovely lingerie for that special day. She asked me to manage the shop as I had experience in both retail and bra fitting. At the end of the first year she found two shops too much and I bought the business from her. I am an avid shopper and believe shopping should be a pleasant rewarding experience. We strive to make it that here.
2. What do you feel sets you apart from other shops in Dorchester selling lingerie?
Our fitting service is the most important difference. We hold an extensive amount of stock – over 5000 bras in all shapes and sizes! All women are different, very few ladies can buy a bra ‘off the peg’ and a good fitting bra is the essential foundation to looking our best. A beautiful dress can be ruined by the wrong bra! We also have a large selection of post-surgery bras and swimwear and helping the ladies who have undergone operations is an important part of Mirari.
3. What do you look for when deciding which brands to stock?
All of our brands are quality labels. This means that our customers may pay a little more but they get the quality they deserve. We choose ranges for the best fitting bras, many different shapes exist and we try to keep a good variety in each size to find the best fit for every customer. Some brands like Chantelle are best at T shirt bras (ones without seams) and others like Aubade are the ultimate in design with fabrics such as leavers lace and silk.
Anita make one of our best sellers and this is soft cup bra which is designed for comfort. Marie Jo and Prima Donna both have ladies who always buy their brand for the fit and comfort too. Each manufacturer brings another element to the mix and helps to add variety to customer choice.
4. Tell us some of the most challenging things about running your own boutique and what are some of the most rewarding?
Anyone who has a business will tell you that sometimes it can be very worrying – especially given the fact that we have had a recession, it is hard work and a big responsibility but the rewards by far outweigh the worries!
The most rewarding things are the feedback we get from our customers. Many new customers have been in the wrong size and the comfort and appearance achieved with the right one is a revelation to them. This shows in repeat orders and the way ladies recommend us to their friends and family members. Customers who have been with us for years are friends and the atmosphere of the shop reflects that. We believe it’s essential to make customers feel safe and confident, a genuine smile and positive attitude help. We are never embarrassed and nor should our ladies be. We can always be trusted to be truthful and do our very best for each one of them.
5. Do you get many men shopping with you who are unsure of what size to buy for their lady?
Yes we have become a destination shop for that special present – either Christmas or Birthdays. Many men who have been visiting us for years know exactly what their partner likes – some know that we have all the details to hand. If anyone is unsure as to size we often ask them to check the size of the bra they see most often as this is likely to be a comfortable one. It is better to have them return after checking the size than to disappoint a loved one with the wrong fit! We are, however always willing to exchange gifts as we want the lady concerned to be happy with her present.
6. If you were a customer in your own shop, what would you buy?
I love the nightwear we stock, we try very hard to keep to quality products and keep a range of luxury silks from Marjolaine which are beautiful. Having said that the 100% cotton which is made in England is also popular.
7. Do you have a loyal customer base?
Yes we really do, many women will not shop elsewhere and we really appreciate that as they are the ones who keep us here. We have customers who visit the area once or twice a year and we are on their list of places to go in Dorchester. Some also live abroad and we will always post to them. It’s lovely to see them all again when they visit.
8. Aside from running your business, what are your hobbies or activities that you enjoy?
As I said before I love shopping! My husband and I love to dance and we both enjoy the theatre too. I always have lots of knitting projects on the go and love to sew. I have been going to evening classes to learn Italian and I hope to revisit there soon. I have a new grandson and currently my favourite pastime is looking after him!
9. What advice would you give to someone who is dreaming of opening their own small business in Dorchester?
Make sure the business is of the right sort – is there a demand for your product or service? If you have a niche market then advertise in all the right places to drive people to your door. It’s OK to have a wonderful shop but the customers are the key.
10. Last thing…congratulations on recently celebrating your 10 year anniversary! What’s next for you and Mirari?
Thank you we are so pleased to be here and still keeping busy. I would like to say thanks to all our customers as you have kept us going and supported us through all these years. Plans for the future include growing the business even more as the word on Mirari spreads – our swimwear stock upstairs is taking more space so who knows we may have to expand!!