Ducky Zebra pops-up in the Oxford John Lewis

We recently popped-up in the Oxford John Lewis. During our week-long stand we immersed ourselves in the John Lewis experience, showcased our collection and met some fantastic customers. Sally Dear, founder of Ducky Zebra, shares her experience of being a small brand in a big store.

Give us the background. How did the opportunity arise? 

Last year I stumbled across a fantastic pop-up by Love Writing Company in our local John Lewis store. Before I knew it I was deep in conversation with their owner, Surlender, who told me more about their experience and encouraged me to apply for a pop-up stand myself. Surlender has since become a great mentor and friend - it’s funny how a quick conversation can spark something bigger.

We made our application for the pop-up through The Great British Exchange and were successfully approved by John Lewis soon after.

What does the pop-up with John Lewis mean for Ducky Zebra?

It's fantastic for Ducky Zebra to be associated with a brand like John Lewis. As a trusted and well recognised house-hold name their approval of our product and brand has been incredible. It has helped us to raise awareness, build relationships, collect feedback and extend our customer-base. It has also given us a valuable insight into how a large retail company works and the power of collaboration.

How long did you have the stand? And what were the hours like? 

We had the stand for a week. We began the set-up on Monday morning and were packed up by 5 o’clock on Sunday. The hours were long! The store in Oxford is open from 10am until 8pm every day, aside from Sundays, and we had to staff the stand at all times. Needless to say my feet felt weary by the end of the week!

John Lewis provided the furniture - including the rails, table, plinths and crates, which allowed us to set-up and pack-up easily.

I was so grateful to friends and family, who popped in each day for moral support - and to give me a quick break away from the stand.

What was your best moment from the week?

Having a queue of customers! Although it felt stressful at the time, it was amazing to have a queue of people waiting to buy their Ducky Zebra clothes. 

I also loved recording our tannoy announcement, which was played throughout the week. Listening back to it was less fun though!

Were there any other stand out moments?

There are so many! It was amazing to see returning customers, who had bought from Ducky Zebra previously at our Covered Market pop-up. Hearing their positive feedback and seeing them buy again was a real endorsement of our clothes.

I also loved it when Emily, our designer, popped by to see the stand. She has been instrumental in developing our brand and clothes, and it was so nice to share the experience with her.

Another stand out moment was when my sister arrived with her young baby, who was dressed from head to toe in Ducky Zebra clothing. They arrived just after we’d set-up on the Monday morning, and did a great job of calming our nerves.

Can you give us any behind the scenes insights?

I enjoyed the John Lewis staff cafe, especially the free fruit and coffee! I also appreciated the space I was given to store my additional stock - it made me feel a part of the John Lewis team. Unsurprisingly, the store is full of experts - and I was so grateful to the Visual Merchandising team who came and helped with the finishing touches of our stand on the Monday morning.

Was it a success?

The answer to this is a resounding yes. It was great from an awareness and marketing perspective - but also fantastic from a sales perspective, which I’m truly grateful for.

What were your top three sellers?

  1.  Our best seller was the turquoise stripe long sleeve bodysuit
  2.  This was closely followed by the sleeveless dress
  3.  Our sweatshirt and turquoise stripe t-shirt came in joint third position.

What was the reaction from John Lewis customers?

We received lots of positive feedback from customers, especially around the quality of our clothes and the bright colours of our designs. I think this comment however, from 9 year old Bianca, was our favourite: 'I want to shrink to fit into Ducky Zebra'.

Would you do anything differently next time?

Our stand was in the homeware department. If I were to have another pop-up (and if I could influence the location) I’d love to set it up in the childrenswear department - so that it was in a more relevant setting.
I started to collect written feedback about our clothes towards the very end of the week. I wish I had done this sooner, as there were so many fantastic comments. Next time, I’ll be ready with my pen and paper from the very start.
Image of Ducky Zebra pop-up stand, including a promotional banner and rails of clothes

Did you visit our Ducky Zebra stand? Or have you seen other pop-ups elsewhere? If so, we’d love to hear your feedback on how to make the most of a small pop-up in a big store.

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