I just finished reading Webs of Fate in a matter of days. I just couldn’t put the book down. I was determined to know more about the glamorous and dangerous life of Ashleigh McDowell.
Coming from the retail industry as an executive for Bullocks Wilshire Department stores based out of Los Angeles, you have first hand knowledge on how retail can be blind-sided with complex relationships of loyalty and betrayal. How much real-life experience did you bring into the lives of the characters Ashleigh and Danielle?
The personalities of my character mirror those I’ve encountered in the world of retail. Ashleigh has my former position. However, her personal life is pure fiction. Danielle’s personality mirrored that of a troubled young buyer I worked with at Bullocks Wilshire. However, since fiction must be believable I had to tone down her boss. The crime is fiction but could happen.
We have seen the rise and fall of many luxury department stores. Over the years our society has focused more on purchasing the lowest price possible than receiving quality. Where do you see the new era of department stores will evolve?
Since the mid-eighties when the greatest competition retailers faced was from like-retailers drastically cutting retail prices to gain share of market, consumer confidence has sunk to an all-time low. Although, consumers always loved finding bargains, we did not expect them day in and day out. However, since the new status symbol has become “How much did you save?” consumers are reluctant to pay full price. They have lost trust in the true value of merchandise. If something can be reduced 70% what is it actually worth?
Since the beginning of department stores in the 1800’s, savvy retail merchants have been resilient, reactive, and proactive. They are not unaware that they have lost many of their value shoppers– those individuals who are willing to pay a more for better quality and service. Many individuals are price-shoppers though necessity. However, through this last recession, which has been the worst we have encountered since the depression, many of these value shoppers have become price shoppers. Retailers are aware that recession is only one of the reasons merchants have lost the loyalty of these value shoppers. The continual sale atmosphere has eroded confidence. Since consumers are now hard-wired for bargains, smart retailers are using special promotions such as insider’s days, (where their loyal customers get special discounts for specific periods of time) to recreate that loyalty. The largest department store group in our nation is focusing on bringing the consumer what they want by subdivided their buying operations into smaller and smaller regions in an attempt to capture the loyalty for which the regional departments stores were known and loved. Technology has greatly changed the world we live in. While our shopping options have expanded and our preferences may have changed, what has not changed is the desire for quality and service—this is true across the board (price shopper—value shopper—luxury shopper). To survive retailers must tap into the desires of the value shoppers. Those who are doing so are expanding.
In the high fashion, fast-paced, fiercely competitive industry of retail, what advice can you give to the millions of women who dream about making it in the fashion industry?
Learn as much as you can about the industry and let your desires be known. Follow your passion. There is no shortage of opportunity
Are you still currently involved in the battle for Macy’s to restore the Marshall Fields brand stores that was purchased and turned into Macy’s locations in Chicago? What’s the battle?
I am not personally involved with this battle. I was on the management team of Bullocks Wilshire which shared love and loyalty of consumers and the pride of those who worked there. That battle is the background of my next novel Unpredictable Webs. A few months ago I went on a research trip to Chicago. The CEO of Macy’s Inc. set me up to talk with the regional VP of Macy’s North and the VP of cause marketing. I also met with Jim McKay the leader of the Fans of Marshall Fields and a small group he assemble.
What I discovered was there was a great deal of passion in the windy city and no bad guys. Both factions believe that their path is for the greater good.
Can you give Fashionista Chicago any inside scoop on your next book? Will we see more suspenseful novels taking place in heart of high-fashion?
I write Fact-tion: Character driven novel based on real events in the fashion industry. I also write what I love to read which is page-turning suspense in bite-sized chapters. However, I never allow the facts get in the way of a riveting story.
Since I generally read when I go to bed each night I love the short chapter. Most of my readers had busy lives so I write to that you can put the book down at any time, but also so that the reader wants to know what happens next. With short chapters the reader is likely to go 3-4 more pages, 3-4 more pages…….
My greatest criticism from readers is that I have kept them up all night which, of course, is music to a writer’s ears.
Lastly, what is your favorite high-fashion location in Chicago you have to stop by when you are in town?
I will be Chicago March 8-12. I always enjoy popping into Bloomingdales and lunch in the Walnut Room at Macy’s in the Marshall Field’s Building. While there, I have a TV interview with WGN Midday New, am speaking to the IN Print Writers group which is out of town at the Cherry Valley Library. I have a book signing in Barnes and Noble in Rockford and may have another for Books-A-Million (not yet confirmed). I am also doing a bit more research for Unpredictable Webs and will be meeting with Ken Price, the manager of the Palmer House as well as a contact at Chicago PD.
Thank you Darlene for taking the time to speak with us about your book Webs of Fate and giving us the inside scoop on the inner workings of the fashion retail industry.