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The Big Idea

PUBLISHED: 05:29 20 April 2015

Anne Rowe, owner of Walkers clothes shop, Norwich.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Anne Rowe, owner of Walkers clothes shop, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

Anne Rowe is marking 25 years of her Norwich shop Walkers of Pottergate with a special celebration – and the chance for our readers to become models!

Please tell us a little about the history of Walkers.

I opened the shop in 1990, originally specialising in footwear. I was interested in the top quality leather children’s shoes available from German manufacturers, so I travelled extensively, and it was during these travels that I observed a completely different look of ladies’ fashion that those stylish European women were wearing, quite different to the conventional fashion predominant in the UK high street. I was smitten and ladies’ clothing became my focus.

Have you seen many changes in the way we shop?

I don’t think there are many changes in the way we serve face to face shoppers in Norfolk – local ladies still call into Walkers personally though these days they have often already browsed online. However, I am really keen on newfangled ideas, and set up an e-commerce website more than 12 years ago.

How has Walkers developed to meet these challenges over the past quarter of a century?

I have developed my web sales to the extent that it accounts for 80pc of my turnover. Walkers moved to a larger premises some three years ago, and this offers a far more extensive selection. We now offer the largest collection worldwide of the brand Rundholz, and we’ve learned how to trade with ladies worldwide. My staff are fashion graduates, and I have brilliant IT and photgraphy experts; all needed to keep us up to date in the fashion collections we offer and the way in which we trade online. Serving customers face to face is still the most exciting part – the thrill of seeing our ladies looking amazing never leaves us. When we buy, we still consider all our ladies, and when the stock arrives, it’s such fun to see their reactions - even better if they select an item we bought with them in mind!

What events are being planned to mark the 25th anniversary of Walkers?

We are holding a party on Wednesday, April 15 to celebrate. Robin Phillips, a London jazz musician will be playing for us, together with Kirsty Jarvis, and we will be inviting as many ladies as we can to join us for Champagne and canapes. Free tickets will be available from March 1 on a first come, first served basis. We have designed a limited edition gift to mark the event, which will be presented to all the party guests on the evening.

Tell us about your modelling competition – and how our readers can enter.

As well as the party, we are inviting ladies from 19 to 99 to enter our Walkers’ Model of 2015 competition. Ten finalists will be invited to model in our catwalk show on the evening and the winner will be chosen on the night by an independent panel of judges. The prize will be £250 worth of clothes of the winner’s choice.

We are particularly keen to encourage ladies of all ages and all sizes to enter the competition. Beauty for us is defined by character and personality, and while we do appreciate good looks as well, we are hoping for originality.

EDP Norfolk Magazine readers are most welcome to enter, by emailing a photograph of themselves and a single statement of why they would like to model for us (with age and dress size) to me, anne@walkersofpottergate.com

So Anne, what is your Big Idea for taking Walkers – and the fashion industry in Norwich – forward into the next 25 years?

Well, I don’t have any Big Idea, but I do have lots of small ones! The team at Walkers (including myself and my daughter, Becky Rowe), will be launching our own label of scarves, designed by ourselves, as limited editions, made from fine Italian yarn, and each scarf will come with its own story. For example, my design comprises every one of my customers’ names printed on to it . . . in different fonts and shades, to honour all the many ladies of all creeds and colours that have been my customers this past 25 years. We are travelling further, seeking more new designers to bring to Norwich yet more unique and exclusive labels. We passionately search for beautiful, interesting, comfortable, stylish and cutting-edge collections ideal for ladies in their 30s and up to their 70s, and in sizes from eight to 20-plus.

I would also like to say a big thank you to all my local ladies for their enthusiastic support over the years, and how much they have added to my enjoyment of my career at Walkers. I’ve made some amazing friends and acquaintances, and my job is a real pleasure.

Walkers of Pottergate, 6 Upper Goat Lane, Norwich, NR2 1EW; 01603 618718; walkersofpottergate.com

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