Owned and run by Mel, the business is a surprise find on Hart Street, Surry Hills.
Mel hasn't always been the owner, but she's played a massive part in the story. For 8 years - while she had a full-time job - Mel worked at Snog The Frog on Saturdays. Being passionate about costuming led to her spending more and more time in the shop, eventually leading to her managing it on behalf of the owners.
Last year, Mel heard that the owner was looking to sell the business.
“It was perfect. I'd always dreamt of being able to own it and have it as my own.”
Since Mel officially took ownership of Snog The Frog, she has renovated the space and purchased new costumes. She says that there used to be more costuming shops in Sydney, but the upward trend in online shopping has cut into the profits of the local industry.
So, what's her secret?
Customer service, and diversifying your offering to customers.
“Our main thing is customer service. People love coming in and getting friendly service... Most of the staff have been here forever, and we all work together on Halloween when the store is really busy.”
There is so much to choose from in Snog The Frog, but Mel knows the space inside out and can make a suggestion at a moment's notice.
“Our strength is hire, but we do have an online store. We also do makeup and costume design, so we do lots of different things,” says Mel.
Although the bulk of their trade is costume hire, they have a few packet costumes for customers who might want to buy one to keep. Mel says that this can work well for some people, but the glossy photography can be deceiving. When you're buying a packet costume, it can be difficult to assess the quality and fit, making hiring a better option for many people. Customers of Snog The Frog are able to try costumes on before they hire (and the pre-hire dress-ups with Mel and the staff are all part of the fun!).
“I think that in order for us to survive this crazy retail moment we're having, we've got to make it really easy for our customers; sending them photographs, taking phone bookings, going completely out of our way for people, and even delivering to them if they're local.”
Mel also says that changing her opening hours to suit her customers has made a huge difference.
“If your customers are working 9-5pm and your shop closes at 6pm, you miss out on a lot of business. We get busy in those last two hours of the day.”
Where do you source your costumes from?
“I try to buy local where I can. If I find out that someone is making something locally, we try and work with them.”
“When we're making our own costumes, we have people that make things for us. We have a lycra guy in Queensland who made us a Jamaican bobsled team outfit and a Cathy Freeman jumpsuit. A girl over on the North Shore makes our denim outfits for us, and she has just made us double-denim matching Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake costumes.”
(We saw them, and we can't even describe how amazing they are.)
“I think it's quite important to support our local industry and people who specialise in particular crafts.”
The best part is that when you hire from Snog The Frog, you get to wear the creations of these local costumiers for a fraction of the real cost.
“When you hire something, you get to wear something really cool which might've cost us thousands of dollars, but you're able to hire it for $77.”
Do you have a favourite costume or a favourite find?
“My favourite find at the moment is the mannequin dog.”
For context, there's a life-size greyhound mannequin poised at the front of the shop.
“There's a guy based in Marrickville who specialises in mannequins, and we hired some to take photos of our children's costumes. When I saw the mannequin dog in the shop, I couldn't resist.”
“We've also got some great cosplay stuff. We've got the Sailor Moon outfits and the wigs that go with them.”
Every now and again, Snog The Frog has a sale to clear some space, with some items priced as low as $5 - $10. Mel says it's great to see everyone getting really excited about the bargains they're able to grab, but for her, it's all about clearing space for new and unique costumes.
“It's funny - it can get kind of addictive. I've stopped buying clothes for myself and just buying things for the shop!”
Jacob leads the Working Capital team at Valiant. He is the go to guru for assisting small business owners with their everyday business finance needs.