November 15, 2019
Recently one of our favourite magazines, Courier, held their second annual ‘Courier Live’ event at Republic London.
It was a great day featuring a ton of cool business, from jacket makers who sell out within minutes, to healthy cold-pressed juices and brutally honest greetings cards. If you weren’t able to go then we thoroughly recommend joining next year.
So you can imagine how excited I was when Courier editor, Danny Giacopelli, reached out before this year’s event. He asked me if I would come and talk all about the hows and whys of opening a Bricks and Mortar shop, and of course, I jumped at the chance.
It was great fun, and it also gave me the opportunity to reflect on the last five years, what it’s been like opening, and more importantly running, stores.
I’ve pulled together my top five tips on opening and running a Bricks and Mortar shop.
Yes - location is important, yes - traffic is important, but none of that matters if you don’t understand why you are opening your store to begin with. Here at Camden Watch Co., our stores are more about spreading the word than anything else, which means we need stores that are highly visible, but equally, they don’t need to be huge. Maybe you want somewhere to run events alongside selling, maybe your product offering is quite niche and you can allow yourself to be a little off the beaten track.
Once you understand why you are opening a shop, the rest will follow.
The team who work in your stores will become the face of your brand, arguably even more so than you (even if you also plan on working in store). This is not something that should be underestimated. They will not only need to know your product back to front, but they also need to understand your policies, how much wriggle room they have, they will need to be customer service superstars and most importantly they will need to share your passion for the products you sell.
We are lucky that we have a fantastic team of people working in our stores, but getting here took a lot of work, a lot of trial and error and a hell of lot of interviews.
This one was actually prompted by a question from the crowd; "When you first opened, did you budget for maintenance?”. I answered as honestly as I could, which meant admitting that no, we had not budgeted for this and we absolutely should have (and do now). The takeaway here is this - always come in to your shop with fresh eyes. When you often go somewhere or spend a lot of time in a certain space, you become a bit blind to its faults. Is it dusty? Are there things that have broken or fallen over? How’s the sign looking? Could anything be improved?
Again, another crowd question, but about if we were worried about online taking over. The short answer is no, not at all. We often talk as if online and offline are at war, and it’s true that online shopping has completely disrupted the high street, but it’s not all bad. You shouldn’t look at it as one versus the other, instead, they should be working together. The internet is a tremendous tool that can, and should, be used to your advantage. Can you offer click and collect? Can people reserve items? Pre-book events?Take a deep dive into your back collection before coming in store to take a look in person? Most shops should have an online offering and at the very least a social media presence (although whatever you do, don’t half-arse it, but that’s a tip for another time).
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If you know anything about Camden Market, you probably already know that it’s a hub for vintage and alternative fashion. Camden Market is, and was, one of the best places to go for independent fashion brands, well-kept vintage pieces, and alternative style.
From mod to punk, cybergoth to bohemia, modern and vintage fashion blended together, inspired by the music and culture coming out of Camden.
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Behind-the-scenes content and design inspiration from the founders of The Camden Watch Company.From Camden with love.