Created: Tuesday, 10th December, 2013 - 12:09

Independent retailers in Surrey are being encouraged to take advantage of free branding and marketing advice from students at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) at Epsom.

UCA Epsom's BA (Hons) Fashion Management & Marketing degree is offering local shops the opportunity to take advantage of its students' expertise to help High Street fashion outlets in the area.

A recent pilot project with Luigi Boutique in Haslemere culminated in an afternoon of presentations from students who provided ideas for re-branding, visual merchandising and marketing, using the skills they have learned on the course plus a variety of expensive industry-standard research tools supported by digital visualisations and scale models to showcase their proposals.

Course leader, Caroline Gilbey, said: "The High Street is suffering and we thought it would be a good idea to run live project briefs where student skills could be applied to real fashion business challenges. The students have access to amazing on-line resources and use their own creative skills to inform proposals that could really help local businesses regain their competitive edge in these difficult economic times.

"Our students are required to rebrand a fashion outlet as part of the course. In the past they've gone for major names such as H&M or Marks & Spencer but we realised that the challenge is so much greater for the independent market. Effective re-branding of local independents not only gives our students fantastic experience but could also boost local community business at the same time.

"The students use expensive research tools, such as Mintel, plus amazing fashion forecasting resources. These resources would be unaffordable to the average local retailer so this is a great opportunity for all involved."

Students spent two months researching Luigi Boutique, Haslemere, during the academic year, carrying out visits to the shop, market research, customer feedback, consumer profiling and analysis of the local community and the competition.

Julie Wright, co-owner at Luigi, said: "I think the students did a fantastic job. We were all surprised by the effort they put into the project, especially the amazing scale models that they made and the results they achieved - we'll definitely be implementing some of their ideas at Luigi."

Karen Eames, co-owner said: "I've been to a lot of creative pitches in the past and these topped many of them - not only did they get a good feel for our brand and put forward realistic ideas for our budget but they also took the time to learn about the local market and analyse our competitors which was invaluable."

Caroline Gilbey added: "Live projects help our students understand the skills and theory that they've learned on the course. They really do have practical value and can be applied to local, real-life projects.

"This really is a mutually beneficial scheme and we're delighted that we can work on projects like this with independent retailers and local communities."

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