Riviera People – Trudi Knapman

Posted by: on Apr 13, 2016 | No Comments

Riviera People – Trudi Knapman, a dedicated follower of fashion

Trudi Knapman, General Manager of Hoopers is a self-confessed fashionista, quite the devoted follower of fashion. She puts her passion to good use at Hoopers, Torquay Harbourside’s exclusive fashion, beauty and homeware store. Anita Newcombe met her to find out more.

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am meeting Trudi in the attractively designed restaurant with its astounding views at the top of Hoopers.  Trudi is unmistakeable when she appears from a side door.   She is rather glamorous and wearing a fitted Joseph Ribkoff dress with a gorgeous tropical flower print.

She tells me, “I try to wear something that’s available in the store every day – so do all our managers.  It’s good to model the clothes and it gives us a much better understanding of how well the individual pieces will wash and iron.”

Trudi has been General Manager of Hoopers for 18 months although she spent the first 3 – 4 months shadowing the previous incumbent, Annie Roberts.  Running a big store like this has many different facets.  In addition to such things as planning what will be likely to sell well in future seasons, she must ensure that the customers are pampered, preside over the staffing, keep an eye on the health and safety, manage the finances, oversee the restaurant and lots more.  It sounds like a huge job.

Trudi tells me, “ Yes, but I have a great team and each department has its own managers. I also work direct with our professional buyers in accessories, ladies’ clothing, men’s clothing and homeware.”

Buying the glamorous clothing and accessories sounds rather exciting but how do they decide what to stock?  Trudi tells me that they work far ahead on clothing lines.  The store’s buyers are currently working on the spring/summer 2017 collections.  Range reviews are undertaken between Trudi and the head office buyers. To prepare for these conversations, she works with her department managers to review what worked well, what customer feedback they received and the most requested brands during the previous period.  The department managers each prepare a visit report that delves into the latest results in more detail.  They will highlight what has been successful such as dresses, single pieces and so on.

Armed with this information, Trudi can look at more general trends, comparing Torquay’s experiences with the family business’s other outlets in Tunbridge Wells, Wilmslow and Harrogate. As a coastal store, Hoopers Torquay is rather different – it is busiest in the summer months due to the influx of tourists, whereas the other stores tend to be busiest at Christmas.

The buying is often done in ‘stories’ or themes so that outfits can be built.  The ‘stories’ might be based on complementary colours or a current theme such as ‘rock-chick.’  There are also NOOS items (never out of stock) such as men’s basics, florals/pastels for spring and ranges such as NYDJ (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans), which are ever popular.

Trudi explains that Hoopers, Torquay has two fashion floors.  One is very much for special occasion wear – the more expensive, luxury items.  The other floor is more lifestyle or day-to-day clothing ranges but still very stylish.  The ground floor hosts the cosmetics, accessories and the Kurt Geiger shoes concession.  The top floor has homeware, cookshop and stationery items.  One thing I didn’t know was that there is a Beauty Room for facials and makeovers. You can book a beauty session via one of the consultants at Sisley, Clarins or Lancome for example.

The store has some concessions such as Jaeger, Basler, Crew and Kurt Geiger and these brands rent space and staff their own areas.  The non-concession areas are also set out in brands and these include classic fashions such as Joseph Ribkoff, Gerry Webber, Olson and Betty & Co.  Then there are ‘attitude fashions’ such as Ted Baker, French Connection, Benetton and Esprit; Mulberry and Michael Kors are also really popular. The store is starting to get younger customers taking account cards and many of these will become long-term customers.  Trudi says, “Someone can walk through the door, no matter what age or size and they will find something wonderful that suits them.”

Hoopers is very much a destination store which draws people in from all around the region.  I am amazed when I hear how far people will travel to shop here.  Some customers travel as far as 400 miles and visit a couple of times per year whilst visitors from places as far as Wales are fairly common.  Regular visitors come from places like Saltash, Bristol, Dartmouth and of course right across the Bay.

I wonder how Trudi came to be in her role and she tells me that she had previously worked at Cath Kidson, Seasalt and New Look but before that she had been in management at various local branches of Woolworths for ten years.  She tells me, “It felt like a very big job indeed when I first came to Hoopers and I had a very steep learning curve in terms of product knowledge.”  Her key objectives include ensuring the reputation of Hoopers is maintained, providing the best levels of service, keeping the staff happy and well trained and turning in the expected profit levels.

Trudi settled in quickly to her new role.  She tells me, “Hoopers is family owned and it’s nice to feel part of something special.  Unlike bigger organisations, you get to meet everyone – owners, directors, buyers – I love that I can have a direct impact on what the store sells.”  Hoopers is unusual in retail in having mostly full time staff and there are many key staff members who have been working there for many years.  Trudi explains that this is very important in terms of providing the highest levels of service as these staff members know the products so well.  They also get lots of training, often provided in store by suppliers and brand ambassadors.

Hoopers had just completed a major refit when Trudi started her role as General Manager so she was certainly starting on a high. She says, “The second year is likely to offer more of a challenge. I’ll need to keep up the momentum and interest we have generated with more weekly events and regular fashion shows.”  The store has lots of account cardholders and loyalty cardholders and they communicate with them about what’s on by email and phone.  For example they may contact their contemporary customers who love the floaty, comfortable fashion epitomized by brands like Masai, Sahara and Oscar when new stock comes in.

Trudi works 5 days in 7 but is always around on Saturdays unless she is on holiday.  She says, “This is one day that I wouldn’t want to miss as there is always a real buzz in store.”  However, she tells me that Hoopers is very supportive of the staff’s family life and the shop’s hours are generally a sensible 9am – 5.30pm with only occasional late nights for special occasions.  Last year they opened on Boxing Day because it was a Saturday and it was extremely busy so they might do this again. 

How does she resist all this delightful fashion, which is all around her?  Well it seems she doesn’t.  She reveals, “I’m a shop assistant’s dream – I love fashion.”  When Trudi last moved house, her Dad was roped in to build her additional wardrobe space for her ever increasing fashion collection.

Trudi now lives in Shiphay. She loves walking and when she is off work enjoys visiting Dartmoor and Exmoor with her family and two dogs Bono and Larry. More locally she loves walking on Preston Beach in the winter when dogs are allowed to roam there.  Trudi tells me, “Sunday is a family day – we adore eating out, often on the moors but also at the Boathouse in Paignton, Las Iguanas, the Drum at Cockington, Coombe Cellars, the Linny at Coffinswell and many more.”

But work is always calling – the store has two Basler fashions shows coming up in the next few days and there’s a whirlwind of activity planned.  Trudi says, “There’s always something different happening and you never know how a day might go – that’s what makes it so interesting.  There seem to be no rhyme nor rhythm to the fashion business, it’s constantly changing, but that’s one of the things I love about it.”

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