Recipe for retail: Becky Dennison
Few people pursue opening their own retail store, and even fewer do so during a pandemic. Metropol Deputy Editor Nina Tucker chats with thriving fashion retailer Becky Dennison to discover how she fulfilled her childhood dream.
Picture a young Becky standing behind her roadside flower shop, filled with blooms from her parent’s garden. Or, foraging the beach near her childhood home for paua shells, which would later become necklaces sold to primary school teachers. Now, picture her as the new face behind Christchurch fashion boutique Lynn Woods, and the popular Hyde Boutiques of Ōamaru and Ashburton.
Becky has an entrepreneurial persistence that many don’t. “I always told mum and dad that I would have a shop one day,” she says.
After working at the original Hyde Boutique during her studies, and intermittently following lockdowns, Becky took up an offer to buy it in 2020. She’s never looked back. Fair warning of the then-retail market followed from her parents, yet a yearning for it forced the risks to fade. “I thought, even if I don’t make a lot of money, at least I’ll be doing something I love,” Becky explains. The process was organic, and each opportunity flowed on from the previous. Becky laughs, “If someone said to me when I was at university, ‘You’re going to have three fashion stores, and you’ll own Lynn Woods in Christchurch,’ I’d tell them, no way.”
It’s worth adding that Becky is just 29-years-old. Life throws hurdles at young businesswomen, but Becky prioritises transparency and respect, and receives what she gives. “I don’t find it hard being younger.” Becky’s job, among others, is to oversee three stores and their teams, yet there’s no hierarchy to it. “I treat them as team members, but also as friends.” Frequent drinks, daily coffees, or pre-work breakfasts, become the perks of being on Becky’s team. “I guess we show the world that we’re normal people; we just love really beautiful things.”
Just as Becky’s entrepreneurship blossomed in her early years, so did her obsession with dressing up and styling clothes.
“Fashion enables you to present to the world who you are,” she mentions. Dabbling in what was trending for most of her teen years, before finding her true-to-self style during university, Becky holds a curated eye for buying garments to envelop each store. Her preppy yet masculine style influences collection choices, and her love for blazers and suiting has found its way into the range.
To lovers of beautiful clothes, Becky’s access to top New Zealand brands and garments is a luxury worth wishing for. “I probably take it for granted,” she says. It becomes a conflicting moral dilemma at times. “The business side of me thinks I can either wear that or sell that. What do I want more?” However, running a successful retail store in an incredibly tough market means making sacrifices, and operating in smaller, rural towns means there’s no being picky. Catering to a wide market is important, avoiding a niche that might place a store in a box. Luckily enough, the New Zealand fashion industry is a rich tapestry of extraordinary designers, styles, and inspiration. “New Zealand fashion is incredible. There’s very clear handwriting that each brand has. You can look at a style and go, that’s a Juliette Hogan, or that’s a Caitlin Crisp,” Becky explains. She added that a recent trip to America emphasised how blessed New Zealand is to carry such phenomenal designers.
Working with many local brands, Becky comments that it’s a mutual relationship to support each other in the market. Boutiques like Becky’s play an integral role in picking up smaller brands that can’t compete with online retail tycoons. Brands that make it on to Becky’s radar are either requested by customers or are becoming revolutionary in Australia and New Zealand’s fashion industries. Becky looks for designs offering something new, while fitting into a price range that avoids devaluing or reaching too high compared to her current stock. Considerations must take place, too, even the climate Canterbury and Otago experience is different to Auckland, let alone the world. In the early stages, Becky fell in love with a few collections that completely contrasted the current season. “It’s tricky selling tank tops in April in cold Otago,” she remembers.
Becky caters to over 30,000 followers across her stores’ social media accounts, a social media presence that grew from lockdowns shifting retail to a powerful online space. She had emptied the clothing racks at her store and filled the rooms of her house to continue a sense of business-as-usual. Taking photos on her phone of stock in her home or in front of a mirror, followers were kept engaged by a charming Becky, and stunning clothes.
Social media is the ingredient that mixes seamlessly with her blooming physical stores. Becky believes that face-to-face customer interaction is invaluable. “It’s a place where you can really live your brand culture. You can only show a certain amount online.” She adds that a physical address provides reassurance for online shoppers, in an internet of ever-developing non-existent stores.
Updating social media, managing retail teams, browsing lookbooks, and travelling to Auckland and Sydney to view collections paints a dreamy, almost The Devil Wears Prada lifestyle. Add in constant emails, late nights, and undeniable stress, yet Becky’s ability to operate under high-stress situations means her adoration for the job doesn’t decline.
Referencing the common “find something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” slogan, Becky explains, “98% of this does not feel like work.” Her response to what she can be found doing when she’s not working is “secretly working”.
Becky’s three must-haves:
- Kowotow Wide Leg pant
- Nomad perfume
- Any Alémais sundress