It’s been a year since we opened our Crystal Palace store. Whilst no one likes a gloater, I can’t help but feel a trifle smug that we finished 50% up on our budget. I remember when the builders were in, and naysayers gathered on the pavement to taunt. ‘It’ll never work!’ ‘Think they can come down here with their West End ways!’ ‘It be the work of Satan’….well, you get the idea. I understood how Stephenson must have felt as he fired up his Rocket.
On the strength of this we’re opening a new store in Blackheath. This is an even more prosperous and leafy London suburb than Crystal palace. I’d passed by the site dozens of times; a long standing jewellers in a prime location just down from the station, on the main drag. When I saw the ‘To Let’ sign, I moved so fast I blurred. Beating other retailers off with a stick, and having to raise our offer twice, we finally secured it earlier this month.
It’s hard to say why some shops appeal, and others don’t. Our Mayfair store was almost born out of necessity; we needed a new central London showroom and the shop was a bonus. As it turned out, it was one of the best moves I’ve ever made. Shepherd Market suits the brand so well, with it’s odd mix of history, individuality and a sense of discovery. Crystal Palace and Lamb’s Conduit Street were both locations that I had an instinctive gut feel for, and in both cases, beautiful Victorian shop fronts, and buildings with character.
Blackheath falls into the same mould. The shop dates from around 1870 and retains the original frontage, right down to the curved glass windows, tessellated entrance floor and foxed Victorian mirrors above the doorway. Inside, there’s much to be done. The nineteenth century tongue and groove ceiling remains in place under a 1980’s shopfit. There’s a glorious wood panelled light well at the back, and once we start stripping out the previous generations of fixtures, more will be revealed.
I’ve decided that this is really the part of my job that I like best. Seeing past the obstacles and imaging the shop, down to the smallest detail, and following the project through. I’m even installing my 1960 AJS 650cc motorcycle in the middle of the store as a piece of vintage eye candy. Doubtless it will drip oil all over the floor but who cares?
I could do all the market research and demographic studies before I sign on the line, but increasingly, I conclude that since I’m broadly the demographic, if I like somewhere, then my customers do, too.