SITTING in a car park watching people walk down the street might seem a strange way to launch a business plan.
But it worked for Margaret Ryan, who this month celebrates 25 years running the same fashion boutique in Doncaster town centre.
She wanted to know if the proposed location of her shop in East Laith Gate had enough potential customers, and her hunch paid off.
Margaret, who had previously worked for a fashion chain, recalls: “When I left that job I realised there was a niche in the market for ladies with a fuller figure.
“So I sat in the East Laith Gate car park for hours counting the number of ladies going up and down the street. Because the shop I had my eye on was very near a bingo hall, there were quite a lot in the daytime.
“I did all my research and went ahead, and now some of my customers have three generations of their family coming to my shop.”
Margaret’s shop is Lady In Style, which opened in May 1986 and claims to cater for the 20 to 100 age group.
“I thought about other names for the shop but decided to go with Lady In Style, and we’ve gone from strength to strength. I cater for all sizes, from 10 to 28 and we stock good makes such as Oscar D, Lebek and Poppy.
“I also stock a range of wedding outfits, hats and fascinators, as well as handbags, accessories and fashion jewellery.”
Margaret, who lives in Branton, has also raised the shop’s profile locally by participating in charity fashion shows over the years, with the proceeds being donated to cancer research, kidney dialysis, the blind and St John’s Hospice.
She and her two part-time staff have built up such a good rapport with customers that some are happy to buy mail order because they trust her tastes.
Despite having reached pension age, Margaret has no plans for retirement. “I shall continue as long as I can, although I don’t suppose I’ll still be here for the 50th anniversary!” she said.