We interviewed Kellie Rigney, Founder and Creative Director or Zjoosh, about what it truly means to engage your customers and have meaningful communications with your market. Zjoosh is a lifestyle brand that caters to women who want something special for their wardrobe, home, personal care, and gift giving. Kellie was also one of the speakers at the Rocketeers of Retail, a networker for start ups to flourish in the retail sphere.
Sara: What started your retail journey?
Kellie: I have always been passionate about fashion and accessories. My first ever job was as a casual sales assistant at Country Road in Chatswood. I worked there for ten years through school and university. I graduated Law School and became a solicitor, but I never felt this was my calling. I was far more interested in creative pursuits. I was always dabbling in sewing, knitting, painting and jewellery making.
I lived in Chicago for around 5 years with my husband (a retail data specialist) and 4 very young children and there started a party plan jewellery business with my neighbour who has some great wholesale contacts. Upon moving back to Australia, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with myself. With the encouragement of my husband I began importing scarves and jewellery to get back into doing what I loved. I sold at markets and school fetes and eventually took the leap to wholesale products to other retailers. We acquired an existing 2 store retail business and morphed those stores into something that reflected my aesthetic and of course included my Zjoosh product.
Gradually the Zjoosh product range expanded to include bags, fashion, lighting, homewares and furniture. We now have fourteen stores. We deal with 66 factories all over the world from France and Italy to Vietnam and Portugal. 70% of our products are Zjoosh own label. It has been a labour of love for beautiful things combined with a keen focus on exceptional customer service. We are fortunate to have an incredible management team and a passionate collective of Zjoosh women who are deeply committed to the brand.
Sara: You have a fantastic story of growth –what enabled its success?
Kellie: I would say that the secret to our success is in selecting the right neighbourhood locations. We know who our customer is and the sort of life she likes to lead. The care and attention she pays to her home, her family and friends and also to herself. She is a warm and generous person who enjoys giving beautiful gifts and treating herself at the same time.
Sara: What do you think makes Zjoosh so unique?
Kellie: Our carefully curated product range is what makes us unique. We are constantly developing new and beautiful designs to provide something new and interesting for our customers. We are always travelling and discovering new fabrics and techniques to create both home and living and fashion items. Items which would make the perfect gift and items which our customers would like to purchase for themselves. We draw a lot of inspiration from Europe. I am a bit of a Francophile with a passion for French home interior spaces and confident French Styling.
Our stores are based in conveniently located neighbourhood shopping centres. We are a community brand and many of our customers visit every week. Our clients know and love our store managers and friendly staff who make them feel welcome and comfortable. We offer a very premium gift-wrapping service which is complimentary. Our level of service is “over and above” and this is our primary differentiator.
Sara: What makes for a fantastic in-store experience?
Kellie: The mood is warm and friendly. Our staff wear our Zjoosh apparel and accessories so that our customer can see how real women wear the brand beautifully. They’re like models without actually being models. We do a lot of training and we supply our team with comprehensive information on every single product that we sell.
We think very carefully about the different price points. We understand that people are often shopping to a budget and we very carefully select products that work within each different price point. It’s the sort of place you can go into and feel you’re in a luxury space, but still purchase something affordable.
Sara: How do you create a full sensory in-store experience?
Kellie: Customers are encouraged to test the different fragrances, hand creams and lotions. We always have a candle burning and music playing to create the right atmosphere. We have mirrors everywhere so they can try the product and see what works for them.
If our customers have children with them, they are offered a marshmallow. If they are elderly, they’re offered a chair. The lighting is warm and soft and our premium bespoke fit-outs for each space include beautiful chandeliers, French style mirrors, herringbone floors and mouldings – it’s a very “boudoir” feel and that’s replicated through all our stores. You could arrive at any of our stores and instantly know you have arrived at Zjoosh because the feeling remains the same, the language remains the same. We want the customer to feel like she is walking into a beautiful home.
Sara: How do you know when you’re hiring the right people?
Kellie: It’s very much a feeling. Are they warm? Are they kind? Are they a Zjoosh woman? The primary ingredient is always kindness.
Sara: How do you create an omnichannel experience?
Kellie: We are working on this every day. We encourage our customers to shop in store and online. We try to replicate the instore experience in our online store- the way the product is wrapped, the messaging, the follow-up communication and all of those things.
Our online business has doubled in the last 12 months and continues to grow as we reach people outside of our store radius. We have customers in Melbourne, Brisbane and country New South Wales. We do that by communicating through social media channels and EDMs which always have inspirational quotes embedded in them. We tell the story of the brand and try to make our communications as meaningful and engaging as possible.
Sara: What advice would you give to retailers?
Kellie: Know your customer and identify the best locations for your brand. This has taken us time to figure out. We’ve had some successes and some failures, but we’ve learned from our mistakes. We know the optimum size for our stores is approximately 100 square metres. We need bigger spaces to successfully sell home and living items and showcase them in a way whereby customers can imagine them in their own homes.
About Kellie Rigney
Kellie is a mother of four kids and a businesswoman, starting her journey in the retail sphere by selling accessories in the market. Her business grew as she forged ahead with a thriving online business, wholesaling products, and launching bricks-and-mortar stores. Her brand, Zjoosh, offers fashion, beauty and lifestyle items that are cherished by women all over.