15 Feb Where It All Began
Having known Sharon Higgs since I was five years old, I took the opportunity to interview her and ask her about the origins of Just A Day. After a chucklesome hour and a half, I couldn’t wait to edit the footage to show our viewers. Unfortunately, my laughs took over the audio, and for those who know me, my laugh resembles that of Jimmy Carr. I’m not going to entertain you with that audio because you can always go on Youtube and watch clips of Jimmy’s laugh. Fortunately, however, I’ve got a short feature on Sharon’s fondest moments and a little bit of history.
In 1993 Sharon Higgs came up with an inspiration that led her to mix the enjoyment of sewing with business. Before she became a Mrs Higgs and gave up her job to pursue this venture, Sharon gained financial help from her dad which led to the opening of Just A Day on April 1st, 1993. This would later prove to be an unfoolish stunt as Just A Day went on to receive the Bridal Retailer of the Year Awards in 2003. (At the time Sharon felt that ‘Just A Day’ was a name appropriate to the store, because of the perennial tradition that wedding dresses are bought for that one day.)
Just A Day started in Little Clacton; a little shop that measured 12x12ft, and was open for three days a week. Shortly after the opening, she met Laarni Byrne who became a long-term friend and someone who shared the passion of making the bridal store succeed. Together they produced made-to-measure gowns that were perfect on the first fitting, which was very successful for them. Sharon would be at the front dealing with customers and the day to day running of the business, whilst Laarni would design and make the dresses exactly to the desires of the bride. This was a couture service run in a small rural village in Essex.
Four years on, Just A Day had outgrown the little shop and needed to expand to a larger space. The opportunity presented itself when an empty premise was standing across the road from a motorbike shop, where Sharon set out to buy a service kit for her motorbike. Within no time at all, a second store was opened at number eight Norwich Road, Ipswich. During this time, the pair were running the two stores for a duration of a year. Having a flair for picking unusual dates, the Norwich chain was made the single, official Just A Day store on October 31st, Halloween. Four years later, the outlet expanded and occupied both number eight and number ten Norwich Road.
At the end of 2011, the decline of the pub industry was accelerating dramatically which led to the closure of the Hare and Hounds pub further down the road. Mrs Higgs made plans to reconstruct the building with the help of an architect and the business relocated to number 30, where the store currently stands. This has allowed the store to have a greater selection of gowns, bridesmaid and prom dresses, as well as hair accessories and waistcoats to match. What is more, it now has large private fitting rooms, that allows room to try on dresses comfortably and exclusively for the bride and her party.
Personal, Friendly, Unique
Sharon describes Just A Day as personal, friendly and unique. Personal, because a wedding gown is an object of sentimental value, and we want to help you find the right dress so that you feel confident and amazing on your special day. Friendly, because that is the nature of our staff and we want you to feel comfortable in the store. And unique, because of the beautiful selection of quality and designer gowns that we have, our long-term customer loyalty, and our 23 years of experience that allows us to share our knowledge to help our brides.
“I do it because I love it.”
Sharon has always seen just A Day as very personal to her and she does it because she loves it. In 2003, Mrs Higgs received a call asking if she was attending the Bridal Retailer awards that year, which she regularly attended in support of other events within the industry. Having already purchased the tickets, Sharon was told that she had been nominated for the awards, thus all arrangements prior to the event would be organised on her behalf.
When asked about how she felt at the time she said: “I pinched myself a little bit because I didn’t think they had the right person.” The awards were nominated by the industry which was the suppliers and customers, out of fifteen-hundred shops. At the event, it was announced that Just A Day had won the Bridal Retailer of the Year 2003 Award, a testament to the team and most of all Sharon and Laarni.
“I have always felt that Just A Day is special to me. I do it because I love it. I enjoy putting people in a gown, finding the right dress for them and giving them the confidence so that when they put it on, they feel excited, glamorous, and lots of different feelings and emotions that a dress should give.
“I never saw Just A Day as anything other than it being mine. I never saw it as something particular in the industry, and for someone to suddenly give me a pat on a back to say that I’m doing it fairly well was quite amazing really – yes, quite amazing.”
We reviewed some fond memories within the twenty years throughout the three locations of the store. A memory that was shared was of a lady who had named her son after Sharon’s husband. She later recalled another lady whom she had recognised from nineteen years ago, who had brought her daughter-in-law to find a gown for her wedding. It was a great joy to see these people after so long,
“It’s that regular occurrence of nice things that has given me the knack of remembering customers from twenty years ago even to the point of remembering their dress.”
These fond memories are not limited to the customers, however, but also to the staff of whom she has shared the journey with. Her fondest memory of all is making and designing dresses with Laarni; a partnership which lasted twenty-two years until Laarni’s passing.
The bridal outlet will be 24 this April, and after twenty-four years Sharon and her staff are still inspired by the joy that is given when the excitement of the bride is expressed after trying on a gown.