Frockery Talk

  • Black Friday frenzy, just why?

    November 28, 2014

    buy nothing day

    Leaving our local Asda clutching a bottle of red last night, we were surprised to find one of the doors out of use and metal crowd control barriers being positioned outside the store. Could it be that Kate Middleton was coming to buy some George baby clothes, we wondered? On asking some hi-viz members of staff what it was all about, we were informed that they were expecting large crowds in the morning since it was Black Friday and there was bound to be a bun fight - or more likely a 90" plasma TV fight - for heavily discounted items in store.

    Although we obviously know all about the American post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping phenomenon, we don't recall it ever being marketed quite so aggressively by UK retailers, and some even claim it to have racist associations. It all strikes us as just another example of collective insanity fuelled by greed, the results of which were amply demonstrated in today's media reports of brawling crowds doing battle for previously overpriced consumer goods that we could all very easily live without. People have already been injured by falling TVs and in outright fisticuffs as the shopping frenzy takes hold across the UK. Surely it's time to get a grip?

    We won't be joining in. Instead we'll be celebrating Buy Nothing Day on 29/11/14 and supporting Small Business Saturday on 06/12/14, as we do every year. We may even be offering modest across-store discounts, but please remember, no fighting amongst the virtual rails! There is plenty to go round and it's affordable all the year round.

    The Frockery


  • Royal Mail: loss leader or lost cause?

    November 20, 2014

    royal mail

    Royal Mail shares have fallen sharply, the BBC reports, with competition said to be threatening its universal service which guarantees single price postage to all UK addresses. Despite government assurances that privatisation would act as a safeguard, we are now told that daily deliveries are under serious threat as profits have slumped by £74million.

    As we have previously blogged, we are big fans of our local post offices, where we hand over parcels on a daily basis for delivery by Royal Mail. As an exclusively online business, a reliable delivery service is obviously vital for the fulfilment of our orders and we have remained loyal customers over many years, albeit using couriers for larger parcels for which Royal Mail is simply not competitive.

    For UK orders, we charge flat rate postage for standard and special delivery options and our rates have remained the same for nearly eight years, despite postal charges being hiked up year on year and mind-boggling new rules about size and weight complicating matters. Adding tracking and a signature - our standard practice - greatly increases our business costs, but it is important for us to be sure that orders have been delivered.

    So what happens when packages don't make it to their destination via Royal Mail? Customers may be surprised to learn - but we know other ecommerce businesses won't be - that claiming compensation for delay and/or loss is not at all straightforward. Unlike online traders, who are responsible for ensuring that goods reach their customers, Royal Mail appears to have no corresponding obligation to provide the service that they have been paid for.

    When customers are not at home, a 'while you were out' card should be left but some are reporting no notification of attempted deliveries and are having to track down errant orders themselves. Fortunately, they are usually located at the sorting office, but in those (thankfully few) cases where they are deemed 'lost', we always refund customers promptly. Royal Mail, meanwhile,  makes it so difficult for us to claim compensation that it is often not worth bothering.

    Unlike our customers, we as Royal Mail customers are never fully compensated for our loss, since they will only reimburse the wholesale cost - not the retail price - of our sold items, plus our actual postage, and they demand rigorous evidence of each, which takes up considerable time and effort. Makers of bespoke items are undoubtedly the biggest losers on this ridiculously uneven playing field as the compensation for raw materials alone can never reflect the time and skills involved in creating their products.

    By contrast, courier companies do offer proper compensation for any failure to deliver on their part and are generally reliable. Since the latest eye-watering, inflation-busting price rises inflicted by Royal Mail, we have been using Collectplus couriers on a regular basis and have so far found them to be very reliable with a handy network of drop-off and collection points across the UK, as well as a fully tracked service with optional signature on delivery. We now use them for anything other than small parcels and special delivery items and have had no complaints. We have never yet had to claim for loss, but would expect to be reimbursed the full sale price on production of a copy of our invoice.

    When it comes to international shipping, we still use Royal Mail, but have learned the hard way that the expensive international tracked and signed service isn't all it's cracked up to be. Just this month an order sent to the USA has gone missing, although the online tracking link reported an attempted delivery and return to the local post office. Despite our American customer making extensive enquiries in true super sleuth style, it had simply vanished without trace - presumably stolen or otherwise diverted. Now we can't blame Royal Mail for the vagaries of the US postal system, but if the tracking details supplied in the UK are useless in such circumstances, why even bother? And who knows how long it might take to be compensated for the loss?

    The sensible business decision would probably be for us to cease shipping to the USA and far flung overseas destinations altogether, and restrict delivery to the UK and Europe, to minimise our potential losses. It is something we are seriously considering, as once we hand over our parcels, we are at the mercy of those we have entrusted to deliver the service we have paid for.

    It very much looks like Royal Mail is on a downward spiral as the competition becomes even more cut-throat, but small businesses simply can't keep on paying more for less and taking financial hits for losses through no fault of their own. "Do we stay or do we go?" is the quandary over which we will be deliberating in the coming months, since we obviously need to remain both solvent and competitive to survive and thrive. There are only so many straws this camel's back can tolerate.

  • Frockers' Adventures in Weegieland

    November 18, 2014

    herald fashion awards finalist banner

    After milking our nomination for all it was worth as finalists in the Herald Fashion awards, Alison and Fi Frocker took themselves to Glasgow for the 'prize-giving' at the weekend. Having  chosen the Herald event over the Otway extravaganza that was taking place in Southend the same weekend - at which we had been offered the opportunity to sing backing vocals on the two-hit wonder's Christmas single - we were expecting  truly great things (and a much lesser hangover) by staying in Scotland.

    As it happened, our appearance had been touch and go as the frockmobile decided to play up after aquaplaning across Angus on Friday evening, but having received assistance from a knight of the road in the form of an AA patrol man (who should take a well deserved bow for exceptional service) we were soon back on track and arrived safely at our Glasgow hotel without major incident. We even had time for a wee wander down Sauchiehall Street, K Frocker's old stomping ground from her student days at Glasgow School of Art, before she deserted us for her absolutely fabulous buyer's job with an international fashion brand in London.

    Coinciding with the Christmas lights switch-on in George Square (as well as the star-studded BAFTAs), the taxi driver took us on grand tour of the city, due to closed roads, just to travel a mile or so. We therefore arrived fashionably late at the venue - the cavernous Arta, in the Merchant City - in anticipation of what had been described as a fabulous evening of fabulous fashion, fabulous canapés and fabulous everything else. It was undoubtedly an honour for us to be representing Angus in a veritable sea of central belt businesses, and, as the T shirt says, it had "gotta be better than Otway!"

    the frockers and friend

    The Frockers and a friend at the bar (where else?) [Image credit: The Herald]

    Fabulous frockery was certainly in abundance, and while we played it safe in our 80s Egon von Fürstenberg (Fi) and original vintage Blanes (Alison), there were some amazing outfits on display in a myriad of styles. Lynn from Herald Events looked especially sensational in her Nicci.N Boutique gown.


    Undoubtedly the most enjoyable aspect of the evening for us was meeting so many interesting people from the creative industries (maybe we don't get out enough). It was a particular pleasure to meet the talented Colleen Leitch, Scottish Graduate of the Year 2014, and her family, with whom we tussled for haggis balls and battered prawns as one member of the party looked on in patient anticipation of his gluten free equivalent (which eventually arrived, but it took rather too long).

    The main part of the evening was hosted by Scottish supermodel Eunice Olumide, who presided over a short fashion show, a pecha kucha slot on sustainable fashion (the business model on which the Frockery was founded in 2007, well before slow fashion became, er, 'fashionable') and, finally, the awards ceremony itself. Details of the winners can be found here and we were especially delighted to see Scot Street Style (who is never lost for words!) scoop best fashion Twitterati.

    We never expected to be short-listed for, never mind win, our category (preloved online retailer of the year) and congratulate Glasgow Vintage on their success. Despite one of our witty Twitter followers calling for a recount (with his tongue firmly in his cheek!), we can assure him and everyone else that the accolades we value most of all are those from our long standing, loyal customers across the UK and beyond. Their support has been especially important to us over this past year, which has been one of deep sadness for the frocker family and exceptionally challenging for our wee business. Things will never again be the same for us after the loss of the inimitable and irreplaceable Johnny Frocker, who could spot an Ossie Clark at 50 yards and who always kept us grounded as well as solvent. We miss you, Johnny!

    Apparently, the Otway Convention went well too, and our good friend Deadly the Roadie tweets us that he managed to avoid the 'back of the pantomime reindeer' role for which he (and his truly amazing legs) had been talent spotted! Otway for Christmas No 1, we say - but we know that, just like us, he won't be disappointed if he doesn't quite crack the top slot!


  • 70s vintage frockery discount

    November 12, 2014

    Alison 70s

    The chief frocker revisits the 70s in a Susan Small dress with amazing sleeves

    Northern Soul the film, which we blogged about recently, has led to a surge of interest in 70s fashion. Abigail's Party has meanwhile stood the test of time and there is always demand for Beverly style hostess dresses and kipper ties!

    Being big fans of the era ourselves - having lived through it shamelessly  in brown and orange wallpaper prints,  Afghan coats, Levi's flares, loon jeans, love beads, long skirts and Laura Ashley - we thought it was time to run a special offer to celebrate the 70s.

    We are currently offering 15% off all items in our 70s vintage department, so why not add some Northern Soul or Abigail's Party style to your wardrobe? Please use code ABIGAIL -15 at the checkout to take advantage of this offer which ends 19/11/14.

  • Gin'll fix it? Walking the McNaughty walk

    November 11, 2014

    Yesterday we posted  Gym'll fix it? The zipper's progress, a light hearted look at our efforts to squeeze into a vintage dress in six days (and counting) for the Herald Fashion Awards. Today's message is that, whenever your personal stress levels hit the stratosphere, you can be sure that Gin'll fix it. Here's that picture again (and the spirit level is getting ever lower for reasons that will become apparent).

    botanist gin

    Pour yourself a glass and we'll begin with a short history lesson.

    Some readers may recall the Shoeperwoman saga, which we recounted some time ago in support of our fashion blogger chum Amber McNaught, whose established brand identity had been stolen by A.N. Other. The matter was only resolved after months of anguish and considerable effort and expense on Amber's part  to establish and enforce prior rights to her distinctive trade mark. As reported in Caughty Doing a McNaughty, Amber's stolen body parts have continued to appear all over the internets, but at least she can walk tall in her own robustly reinforced trade marked Shoeperwoman shoes!

    Little did we realise that we too were destined to walk the same McNaughty walk in Amber's shoes (despite having bigger feet and a justifiable heel height phobia after an unfortunate incident at an Otway gig).

    At the weekend, one of our eagle eyed customers alerted us to the existence of a Facebook page (not ours) calling itself The Frockery. We also uncovered a history of trading under our business name at vintage fairs in England. We admit we were puzzled as we didn't think Facebook allowed brand duplication and we have long standing ownership of all the frockery domain names (from as far back as 2005) and social media accounts, having traded continuously as The Frockery™ since April 2007. A cursory Google search would have flagged up an inevitable plagiarism problem.

    We made early contact with the other business owner in the hope that we could resolve things amicably. Mindful of Amber's experience, however, we felt we had to take immediate steps to protect our brand and put the matter in the hands of the lawyers who filed our trade mark registration in Class 25 and Class 35. We meanwhile alerted Facebook, notified the organisers of the vintage fairs involved and took advice from our local Trading Standards Department. We also familiarised ourselves with every bit of legislation pertaining to 'passing off', copyright and trade marks (and there's a lot of it!)

    Happy ending

    To cut a long and highly stressful story short, we have now had a courteous and constructive discussion with the other business owner who has agreed to change her trading name as soon as is practicable. We are entirely satisfied that the infringement was not intentional and we are pleased to have reached an amicable resolution by informal means. We bear her no ill feeling, thank her for acceding to our request to cease using our name and wish her well in her business.

    So we'll be swapping the gin fix for the gym fix again tomorrow. Tonight we may just manage one or two small ones and we're saving the champagne for Sunday!




  • Gym'll fix it? The zipper's progress

    November 10, 2014

    There are times when a frocker's gotta do what a frocker's gotta do in order to fit into her favourite vintage dress for the Herald Fashion Awards on Sunday. Did we mention The Frockery is a finalist in the best preloved online retailer category? Yes, of course we did! 

    Thankfully, our local Forfar Leisure Centre provides all the instruments of torture necessary to help achieve the goal of doing up the zip on the 5os cocktail number we have earmarked for the occasion, but time is running out...

    lochside leisure centre

    A little encouragement from Twitter friends never goes amiss!

    cross trainer twitter banterpauline twitter

    A combination of 30 mins on the treadmill, 20 mins on the cross trainer and 15 mins on the bike allegedly expended 550 calories this lunch time, while the banana only added about 100. So it was a pretty wrecked looking frocker sporting trainers and bad hair- rather than a well-coiffed #heraldfashion icon in heels - who dropped the day's orders off with Sara at Forfar post office this afternoon. It had better be worth it!

    Rather than undo all the gruelling  good work by indulging in our favourite Merlot this evening, we are limiting ourselves to a single G&T - The Botanist gin, of course, which was gifted by a friend from South Uist. Our Arabella looks as if she's had a few herself!

    botanist gin

    Here's hoping that the gym'll fix it for us to become fit for fashionable purpose in six days flat. We will report further on the  zipper's progress and, of course, the glitzy awards event at Arta in Glasgow, which we are looking forward to immensely. Please wish us luck!