If you love designer leather handbags like us, you might also have a penchant for well made shoes. Lucky for you, our stockist Issimo Christchurch has both! A mecca for Saben handbags and wallets each season, alongside a delicious selection of shoes for every occasion. Belinda is the women at the helm of this match made in heaven. We think you would be hard pressed to walk into her shoe boutique in Merivale and not find something to love.
We sat down with Belinda to find out what running a shoe store is really like...
When and how did Issimo in its current form begin? Tell us about your origin story, and what’s changed since the first day you opened the doors?
I was working in retail & wholesale just after the earthquakes, stores were closed & jobs became shared roles. I needed to look for something else to fill the void. After spending a lot of time searching for that ideal job I decided why not do something for myself & something I loved, shoes & handbags. With the help of my parents (my biggest supporters) we established Issimo in 2012, and here we are.
Last year was a curve ball for everyone in the retail world – how did/did you change the way you did business ? What’s the best thing that has come out of covid for you?
Taking time to figure out if Issimo was still heading in the right direction, making sure it was easy for customers to shop in different ways, either in store or online. Online has certainly grown for us nationally & in Australia.
Sometimes we learn more from our mistakes, than our wins – what’s one of your biggest learning curves running a business/shoe store?
Balance! It’s still a magic word & a little elusive at times. Retail is 24/7 in store & online so it is hard to step away at times. Thankfully I have a lovely customer base of regular shoppers that are an absolute pleasure & some who have become friends of mine.
You stock a few international labels; do you travel to the shoe meccas Spain and Italy to source? And is that as glamorous as it sounds?
Yes I do travel to Europe in search of that something new. I often travel with my parents, or our franchise owners from Queenstown (Issimo QT also stock Saben!), their input is vital to choosing top product for both of our stores. We have met some wonderful people & travelled to some amazing places, but hmmmm glamorous? not so sure about that! There is a lot to do in a short amount of time.
Ok, ok, so its not all Pizza and Aperol spritz...so if you weren’t selling shoes and handbags what would you be doing?
Probably on the wholesale side of selling shoes & handbags to other beautiful stores in NZ.
As you know we love women in charge, and we love women in business – what’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
You will always be learning no matter how long you have been in business, focus on what you want your business to stand for & say about you. Offer your customers products you believe in.
And what advice would you give to another owner operator?
Getting together with like minded gals, getting your heads together just to brainstorm is so helpful. Believe in yourself!
With a shop full of beautiful Saben bags, tell us about your favourite bag from the Winter collection?
I always love Tilly’s Big Sis, the Brown croc this season was a winner, perfect bag for day & night, with rich chocolate tones & embossed croc. I have added her to my already large Saben range.
Ahhh we love the chocolate brown in the Saben office too *heart eyes*
Ok, and what is your all time favourite Saben Bag? Is their one in particular you have thrashed more than others?
Tilly’s Big Sis & Tilly, are favourites for me (editors note: we are sensing a theme here!). They work with my lifestyle, & I can easily throw them into a tote bag when travelling. I love the new feature straps too, great for changing the look up.
What shoes were you living in this summer, and what will you be living in for winter?
Like the rest of NZ, Birkenstocks, Doc Marten sandals & some beautiful Sempre Di chunky sandals in black & tan that went with absolutely everything. Quite like the chunky boot this season, so have Doc Marten 1460 in black mono & fab biker boot from Italian brand NeroGiardini. Always room for a few pairs of sneakers.
From the selection of fabulous high heels, sneakers and of course Saben handbags – you must have some fabulous customers – tell us about what you keep in mind when buying for her?
I do have regular customers, especially for heels by Oxitaly which we can choose what colourway we like for the season, they are a great height and easy style. With Covid I have noticed a lot of cautious shopping, customers are looking for that product that is high in quality, something that can stand the test of time.
I have a terrible habit of thinking if I buy a shoe – it needs to go with everything, leading to some very boring shoe choices. What’s your take on that?
I don’t think I would call that boring. We all need that in our busy lives, styles & colourways that you can mix & match. There are a lot of styles & colours out there and they all have a place for anyone & everyone. I think a pair of heels in an amazing colour or print you will always cherish & they never date.
What are you most looking forward to about 2021?
Getting through 2021! We have all been tested in the last year but shown we can do it even with a few speed bumps on the way. I take each day as it comes & appreciate what you do & what you have.
The customers who keep Issimo on the map; I very much appreciate them! Instore & online they make me look forward to the future.
Next time you are in Christchurch, pop in to Issimo to meet Belinda IRL. You will find her at 174 Papanui Road, in Merivale, or discover Issimo online here.