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Forging Ahead profile: Brenda Minett

Brenda Minett

20 August 2018

 E. Minett was founded in 1907 by Edith Dabbs Minett as a high quality ladies’ outfitters in Wednesbury.  By the 1950s Edith’s daughter, Brenda, owned and managed the business.

Born in 1928, Brenda was the only child of Edith and William Minett.  Brenda’s entrepreneurial talent was apparent early on when she started working in her mother’s shop as a very young girl, being paid three-pence a week to dust and occasionally serve customers.  In fact, Brenda was so young when she began her career that her father had to cut the legs off a wooden stool so that she could reach counter!

Brenda began working full-time in the shop at the end of the war, finally taking over the day-to-day running of the business in the 1950s due to her mother’s ill health.  Supported by her husband John Greenhough, Brenda continued to run the shop until it ceased trading in 2006. 

Whilst not necessarily possessing the sewing and alteration skills of her mother, Edith, Brenda excelled when it came to offering a personalised service that won the loyalty of long-standing customers.  Knowing her clientele so well, Brenda would buy garments in advance from the wholesalers for particular customers whom she knew would purchase the item as soon as they saw it. 

However, this buying on spec did not always run to plan.  On one occasion Brenda had ordered a coat that had to be specially made for a customer.  Unfortunately, the lady for whom the coat was made died before the garment was finished.  Spotting a new customer who she thought the coat would fit, Brenda began her sales pitch with ‘we’ve had to order this coat specially, but unfortunately the customer couldn’t wait for it!’  This customer bought the coat.

E. Minett had a reputation for stocking quality goods that encouraged return custom.  Regular customers often acted as agents for the shop, bringing out stock to show other customers who couldn’t necessarily make it into Wednesbury and allowing them to buy items at home ‘on approval’.  This approach to offering credit was formalised with the innovative ’20 Week Club’ where customers could pay a modest deposit on an item and then pay off the balance over twenty weeks.  Like her mother, Brenda believed that customers needed to be looked after in bad times as well as good.  Therefore, the 20 Week Club never charged interest on purchases.

The blue membership cards of the 20 Week Club were still in use up to the shop’s closure and are now part of BCLM’s collection of objects relating to E. Minett.  The re-creation of E. Minett of the 1950s will give the Museum not only the chance to tell a personal family story of female entrepreneurship, but also herald the evolution of women’s fashion, post-war economic boom and consumer culture and the changing role of women in society.

 

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