How Wingham fashion store Dress Up adapted during pandemic lockdown

Floral fashions: Wingham fashion store owner Shirley Clarke with one of her floral bouquets. Photo: Scott Calvin
Floral fashions: Wingham fashion store owner Shirley Clarke with one of her floral bouquets. Photo: Scott Calvin

Like many local business owners hit with uncertainty at the start of the pandemic lockdown, Shirley Clarke scrambled to adapt.

Shirley temporarily closed the doors to her Wingham fashion store Dress Up and looked to online retailing to fill the gap of lost foot traffic.

Not only was she hoping to find a financial solution to support herself and her partner - a professional musician and teacher - but for her full time assistant and daughter, Alana.

Her first idea was to sell her sales stock via Facebook.

The team put in long days setting this up and went live to a relatively positive response.

"It worked a bit," Shirley said.

But it wasn't going to be enough.

At some point someone suggested Shirley - who used to be a florist - revive some of her old skills and put some flowers on the Buy From the Bush website.

The site showcases beautiful items for sale from rural towns facing difficulties.

Shirley pulled together 30 bouquets and uploaded them, hoping for the best.

The flowers were an instant hit.

"We got 1000 likes on Facebook overnight and 300 comments," said Shirley.

The flowers sold all over Australia.

This spurred Shirley and the team on and they went into mass production to keep up with the demand.

They worked extremely long days with many late nights.

By this stage the doors were back open at the Isabella Street store.

"There was really no-one around but it was nice to open the doors and let the fresh air in," laughed Shirley.

About a week before Mother's Day Shirley decided to put photos of her flowers on local sales sites and again the orders rolled in.

Dress Up has been operating for 10 years and Shirley said she feels blessed to have been able to adapt her business to get through such a difficult time.

"I'd do it again," she said.

In fact she's already making further changes.

More hard work is on the horizon with the upcoming re-location of the shop's neighbour, Wingham Eyecare.

Shirley plans to extend her store into the space to create a clearance pop up shop.

She can't help herself.

"This shop won't let me go," she said.

"I'll just keep nurturing it no matter what."

Shirley's bouquets are still available for sale at the Dress Up store.