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Why Nelly Bo’s wanted to take on the challenge of one of the biggest empty units on Elgin High Street

The lingerie shop has gone against the local trend of independent retailers opening in smaller units.

Kerry Dean sitting on bench outside Nelly Bo's on Elgin High Street.
Kerry Dean specifically wanted a big unit to open Nelly Bo's. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Opening a shop in Elgin town centre was never a career ambition for Nelly Bo’s owner Kerry Dean.

From a young age she dreamed of being a nurse, and for years she fulfilled that ambition by caring for patients in Moray and Aberdeen.

At that point opening a business in one of the biggest High Street units on the market at the time would have been unthinkable.

However, a spark of an idea while shopping in Glasgow with husband Shaun led her to go all-in on opening the Nelly Bo’s lingerie boutique in 2022.

Exterior of Nelly Bo's looking down Elgin High Street.
Nelly Bo’s has a striking presence in Elgin town centre. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Problems shifting larger units in Elgin town centre has been highlighted as an issue in recent years.

Kerry though was not interested in taking anywhere small, and she’s encouraged others not to be put off by going big on their dreams.

  • The Press and Journal spoke to Kerry about why she was so keen to secure a large unit in Elgin town centre for Nelly Bo’s.
  • What idea she took from Glasgow to fill a gap in the Moray market.
  • How Nelly Bo’s is more than just a shop.
  • And advice she has for potential business owners with aspirations of having a major presence on Elgin High Street.

‘Elgin needed something fresh and modern’

Kerry first had the idea of opening what became Nelly Bo’s while shopping in Glasgow towards the end of Covid restrictions.

At the time the now 36-year-old was running a beauty therapy business from home after being forced to give up nursing when she had the first of her three sons.

Opening a shop wasn’t something she was even considering, but then that all changed in one shopping trip to Glasgow.

Kerry Dean inside Nelly Bo's next to shop logo on wall.
Kerry Dean was a nurse before running a business from home before Nelly Bo’s. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

She said: “Shaun and I went through a couple of shops and it just got me thinking about how there was nothing modern or fresh in Elgin with stores aimed at women, even just something aimed at a slightly younger market.

“We spoke about it, not thinking we were going to rush into anything. Then we thought we’d just look at a couple of properties, then we looked at a few more, and here we are.”

One thing Kerry was adamant about though was that the store would target women of all ages to be as inclusive as possible.

She added: “We cater for bigger sizes. A lot of people think D is the biggest cup but it goes right up to J and K, which is miles away from a D and can really affect comfort.

Lingerie hanging up next to Nelly Bo's logo on wall.
Nelly Bo’s is aimed at a diverse range of shoppers. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“I wanted to be diverse and offer that. Our staff are trained fitters, so they help with first bras and women going through the menopause too.

“It’s a very personal service. We’ve all got life experience. We’re open and honest about that but always speak to customers about what is best for them.

Why Nelly Bo’s needed a big property on Elgin High Street

Nelly Bo’s occupies a large unit in the central heart of Elgin High Street and the town centre.

The three-storey building was most recently the Clarks shoe shop until it shut during the Covid pandemic in 2020.

Finding local businesses to fill the gaps in large units when national retailers leave has been a challenge locally.

It wasn’t just a task Kerry was reluctantly prepared to take on, it was one she actively sought out.

Kerry Dean in front door of Nelly Bo's under shop sign.
Kerry Dean needed the space for her business idea. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

She said: “It was very much go big or go home for us because we needed the space.

“We looked at two other shops on the High Street and they just weren’t big enough for us. We would have already outgrown those other units by now.

“Having the upstairs space to utilise was important for us. It gives us the opportunity to keep offering something new.

“A lot of people talk about the cost of rent and rates. We thought we could make it work and decided to do it and so far it’s working.”

Nelly Bo’s only occupies the ground floor at the moment. Turning it from an abandoned shoe shop into a lingerie boutique took Kerry and Shaun a month of working on it until midnight.

Drone image of Elgin town centre looking down on St Giles Church.
Filling big units is a problem in Elgin town centre. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

The top two floors remain a work in progress, but Kerry is not short of ideas.

She said: “We want to do more of the prosthetics, have more room for fittings, move the toys and adult products upstairs.

“We have a lot of ideas. I don’t think we’ll finally decide how we’re doing it until it’s ready.”

Nelly Bo’s ending taboos surrounding women’s health

From the beginning of Nelly Bo’s, Kerry has been on a mission to end all the taboos of women’s health.

That includes advice and products for those going through the menopause, larger sizes or just tips on buying the right size of bra with fittings.

One product the businesswoman is passionate about is prosthetic implants for women who have had mastectomies after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Prosthetic breast implants on table.
Prosthetic breast implants can boost the confidence of women who have had breast cancer. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

She said: “The NHS prosthetics are essentially just big lumps of silicon. They’re really heavy and just make you hot and sweaty.

“Menopausal women struggle to be comfortable at the best of times and these can make it far worse.

“It doesn’t have to be that way though. We have implants that can be fitted to the right size, you can wear them swimming, they can go in the wash – just the polar opposite from the NHS ones.

“I think some people think they are unaffordable but they’re between £65 and £75, depending which on the brand, and they last a lifetime.”

National recognition for Nelly Bo’s

The personal service has already landed the business a national prize at the Stars Best Shop Awards in London, where they won best newcomer last year.

And this year they have been nominated for another prize alongside companies from across the UK.

Kerry said: “There is so much support from the community in Elgin, both the business community and from our community of customers.

Kerry Dean and husband Shaun at the ceremony in London. Image: Nelly Bo’s

“A lot of people just shop on the High Street, which is why it is so important for us to be here.

“From our perspective though the support has grown. People realise if you support independent you’re not just helping to feed my family you’re contributing to the town centre.

“You never know who will walk through the door, or when. We find we can be incredibly busy even if the footfall outside is a bit quieter.”

‘Don’t pay any attention to negativity’

Nelly Bo’s has dreamed big to bring their business idea to Elgin town centre.

It hasn’t been easy though with late nights to get the shop ready while looking after three children and making the accounts add up.

However, Kerry has encouraged anyone with a big idea to follow their passions.

Kerry Dean inside Nelly Bo's.
Kerry Dean has encouraged entrepreneurs to be bold. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

She said: “People don’t need to be scared, as long as they believe in what they’re doing and think they can make it work.

“It’s not as intimidating as you might think. Yes, it’s hard work. It’s very hard work when you’ve got three kids.

“There’s so much negativity on social media, but if you’re thinking about it you should just do it. I never thought I would be doing this but I’m so glad I am.”

Read more from Elgin town centre businesses