Mum-of-two defies UK high street decline as Wimbledon’s ‘Ballet Boutique’ celebrates first anniversary

In the depth of a recession, amid the decline of the high street and with shoppers moving online, a Raynes Park mum-of-two took a pirouette of faith by opening a dedicated dance shop.

Wimbledon’s dedicated dance shop was opened one year ago by Jennifer Siegeris who, despite having no retail experience, relied on her experience as a trained dancer to know what fashions the foxtrotters of south west London needed.

Though originally from Dublin, former dancer Jennifer, 33, has lived in the area for ten years and runs dance schools across south west London.

She had only recently given birth to her second child when she founded her ballet boutique.

“Initially, I just wanted a desk space, somewhere to do my admin – and to get out of the house,” Jennifer admitted.

“But we found this. I felt really nervous, but encouraged by my husband, we just went with it and made the investment.”

The refurbished shop on Merton Road was formerly a family-run estate agents and her landlord was keen to see an independent shop take their place.

“Local mums come in saying ‘it’s so great you’re not just another take-away or chain!’ and ‘I really just want to support the local business!’

“There are some really nice dance shops, just not in the vicinity.”

Until Ballet Boutique opened, parents and dance teachers in south west London might have had to travel to Ewell, Ham or central London, to stock up on tutus and unitards.

Now Jennifer is catering for the different uniforms and requirements of dance schools and teachers in the area, for hundreds of regular customers.

If Jennifer was daunted by what she was taking on last year, she betrays little sign of it now.

Retail guru Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas maintains that ‘high streets are the heart of towns and communities’ and yet according to official figures, 45,000 shops closed their doors for good in 2015.

Jennifer’s instinct to sell through her website in addition to the shop has been borne out by the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

They show that online stores now account for 13.2% of all retail sales, a figure that continues to rise.

One year on and, though her online sales continue to grow steadily, 80% of Jennifer’s business is still face-to-face through the shop.

There is a practical explanation for this – for dance clothing, it’s essential to obtain the right size and fit.

So to be given a personal fitting by experienced staff who know the products professionally usually means right size, first time.

There’s more to it than that though, “It’s a nice experience for mums – and dads – to come with their little ones,” Jennifer explained.

“And they really enjoy the process of getting shoes fitted properly.”

This is a view apparently shared by Helen Dickinson of the British Retail Consortium who has commented that: “Shoppers are demanding more a personalised service and a seamless interaction between physical and digital.”

Jennifer said: “It’s been a risk, but so far, so good. I’ve been overwhelmed. The local dance schools have been such a big support to the shop. I’m hoping I’ll be here for a while!”

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