She has worked for some of the biggest names in fashion retailing during a rollercoaster 10-year career.
Now Shannon Martin is putting the experience she gained managing busy high street shops into running her own bridalwear business in the heart of Holmfirth.
Shannon, 26, who lives at Golcar, wanted to be a physiotherapist when she left Colne Valley High School.
She attended Huddersfield New College and took a BTEC in sport science before starting a degree course at Bradford University. After just one year, she realised it was not for her. “It was theory-based with lots of exams – and that’s not what I’m good at,” admits Shannon.
“At the time, I was working at Miss Selfridge in Kingsgate,” she says. “I started there on work experience and later as a Saturday girl. I got a full-time position and once I started earning some money I decided not to go back to university.”
Within six months, she was assistant manager. At the age of 18, she applied for the job of stand-in manager while the store manager was on secondment to another shop in Derby.
“I never thought I would get it,” says Shannon. “But as assistant manager I thought I should apply.” What was supposed to be a six-month post turned into one-and-a-half years. “When the manager came back, I knew I would have to step down again,” says Shannon. So after almost five years with Miss Selfridge, she left and got a job managing the Marco Polo concession at House of Fraser in Kingsgate. “That was not much of a challenge because I did not have a big team to manage,” she says.
After a year, Shannon joined White Stuff, an exclusive womenswear retailer known as “the best kept secret on the high street”. She was store manager at Leeds, but also ended up running the Harrogate branch, covering for its manager who was on maternity leave. Shannon also had charge of the firm’s concession at Fenwicks in Newcastle.
“As area manager, I was travelling up and down between the stores, but I loved it,” she says.”
Shannon was also increasingly involved in other aspects of the business – new store openings, store refits and HR as well as being the retailer’s charity ambassador in the north. “It gave me opportunities that most people don’t get,” she says. “But it got to the stage where I had to go back to Leeds and I knew managing a single store again would not be enough. I was offered the job at Ilkley, but I decided to look elsewhere.”
Shannon next worked for Cath Kitson, billed as “the home of modern vintage” and was appointed manager of its new store at Meadowhall. During her two years in charge, the branch became the company’s best-performing store out of 200 outlets Shannaround the UK.
Now aged 26, Shannon was headhunted by Victoria’s Secret. “They are such a big company and I really wanted to work for them,” she says. “They opened a store at Meadowhall having previously only been in London and Stratford. I set up a store for its sister brand, Pink, which meant going to London for a month for training.”
Shannon was with the company for seven months before her own marriage in September last year prompted another idea.
“I started looking at “pre-loved” wedding dresses,” she says. “I realised that people were selling them on eBay and that seemed to be the only way people were selling them. Very few shops were doing it. But people want to try the dresses on and going to someone’s house to do it is a bit weird.”
Shannon decided to put together a business plan for a shop selling pre-loved wedding gowns and was successful in getting a loan from the Business Enterprise Fund as well as six months of mentoring.
She found suitable premises to rent at School Street in Holmfirth and with the help of her parents over a seven-week period transformed what had been a ladies’ gym with plenty of pink into a light and welcoming wedding shop with stylish seats, cabinets, mirrors and lighting – and space to display racks of dresses.
“We started off stocking sample dresses which people had tried on in bridal shops but which had never been down the aisle,” says Shannon. “A lot of the shops said we were a godsend.”
Shannon decided to name the business Evelyn Taylor Bridal after her great-grandmother. “Taylor was her maiden name,” says Shannon. “Sadly, nana died of cancer when I was 13, so I aim to hold events to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Care. She’ll be looking down now, thinking: ‘What have you named that shop after me for?’”
Shannon says: “Most of the dresses are only a season old and remain in fashion. Most people get married in June, July and August which is when we are busiest with fittings.
“The number of people getting married has gone up, but people want to get married on a budget. They don’t have £1,000 to spend on a dress any more. That’s why I’ve opened the shop – to keep prices down and still give the customer a beautiful dress. That’s what I do and what I love doing.”
Shannon and James were married last September and try to spend as much time together as they can. “We try to get away on Sundays and Mondays if we can,” she says., “I also like seeing friends.
“I don’t have much time for hobbies. My last hobby was planning our wedding for two years!. A couple of my friends are getting married and I’ve been trying to help them as much as I can.”
Family: Married to James
Holidays: We have been to Marrakech, the Dominican Republic, San Francisco and Las Vegas. We didn’t have time for a proper honeymoon, so we will be going to New York when we finally get one!
First job: Working at Parfitt’s bakery in Slaithwaite
Car: Audi A1
Best thing about the job? I love using my experience in clothing retail to help customers get the dress they look fabulous in. Things can get quite emotional!
Worst thing about the job? I can’tthink of anything I don’t like about thejob - I even quite enjoy the paperwork!
Business tip: Start-up costs are always higher than you think. Make sure you have the resources to launch your business
Work: Bridalwear shop
Site: School Street, Holmfirth
Phone: 01484 766160
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