The owner of the Cricket fashion store in Liverpool has shared the secret of her shop's 30-year success - but admits lockdown made the boutique beloved by WAGS 'vulnerable'.
Cricket, a high fashion go-to in the city which first opened its doors in 1991, was put on the map by Coleen Rooney and other WAGS - footballers' wives and girlfriends -, who were seldom photographed without a bag from the shop in the early noughties.
Two decades on, the store still stands, having survived the pandemic in spite of having no online presence, which has seen lesser stores go under.
Owner Justine Mills, who opened Cricket with her partner Gerry Mannix, told the Sunday Times she had kept the shop afloat during difficult months - often by delivering goods herself.
Scroll down for video
Justine Mills and Gerry Mannix, the duo behind the Cricket Store in Liverpool, which is beloved by local and visiting WAGs. Justine said the shop was lucky to survive lockdown without its own website
Thanks Coleen! The future Mrs Rooney, pictured, put the store on the map in 2003 when she was photographed with a bag from Cricket aged 16. She is still a regular shopper
A fan: Vogue editor Edward Enninful has been a 'great sounding board' for the entrepreneur
The fashion entrepreneur also revealed she's a long-term acquaintance of British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, whom she met 15 years ago and who she says has been a 'great sounding board' for the store.
Talking about her Northern clientele, Mills applauded their fearless nature, saying: 'Liverpool girls aren’t bothered about making mistakes, because they think, "Well, if it doesn’t work there’s always next weekend".'
She admits she was lucky to have survived lockdown without a website.
'I have broadcast groups on WhatsApp, so when new deliveries land, I send pictures to all my clients and they come back to me with orders,' says Mills.
She added that during the height of the pandemic, she and her partner Gerry would drive around dropping off orders, because it was the only way they could work.
The store is now working on its first ever website, which should launch this autumn.
Cricket was put on the map by Coleen Rooney when she was photographed with a bag from the shop at just 16, around the same time her then boyfriend Wayne Rooney, also 16, made his international debut on the England team in 2003.
This brought an influx of glamorous WAGs to the store, who made it their place to go for designer glad rags.
In the early 2000s, stars including actress Jennifer Ellison flocked to the store to get their hands on designer gear
Speaking of that era, Mills said her shop was photographed by paparazzi daily during the 2006 World Cup.
But even now that the media circus has moved on, the store has retained its cult following, thanks to Mills' salesmanship.
The owner said she liked to focus all her attention on the clients who visit her store, and exhausting all their wishes.
And while she still sells designer clothes with eye-watering price tags, Mills, who comes from a working class background, said anyone could be a potential customer and shouldn't feel they had to look a certain way to be served well in her store.
Football still brings clients pouring in to the store on match day, be it from Ireland or London, or any other Premier League club.
The store's distinctive bags were papped regularly in the early noughties, when WAGs like Coleen Rooney or Alex Gerrard, pictured in 2007 had been shopping
She said Coleen Rooney was still a client and came regularly with her family, including her four boys, and said it had been lovely to follow her journey.
As a young girl, Justine said she loved going shopping with her father, and was already interested in fashion.
She met Gerry Mannix when she was 15, when they were both working in retail. At the time, Justine planned to go to university and becoming a journalist or a TV researcher.
The shop opened as a menswear store in 1991, when Justine was only 17 and later introduced womenswear. In 2019, a few months before the coronavirus pandemic hit, they moved to a bigger store in the Metquarter shopping centre.