London indie Other Shop is the brainchild of much-respected industry figures Matthew Murphy and Kirk Beattie, the pair behind B Store. Having just relocated from Carnaby to Soho, the store continues to evolve, centering on supporting new creative talent and nurturing brands that have been part of the Other Shop family since its beginnings in 2012. Stephan Schneider, Story Mfg, Lemaire, Studio Nicholson, Aries, Boboutic and Nehera are some of the names currently stocked. We asked Matthew Murphy to elaborate on the Other Shop concept, explaining what sets it apart from other retailers in London’s competitive shopping terrain.
How would you define Other Shop, and how did the idea behind it come about?
Other Shop evolved from our previous business – B Store. We wanted to re-think the vision and direction of the concept to focus on the elements we were most passionate about – the store, its community and the nurturing of great young brands. A true independent, we aim to create an inspiring environment and an emotive experience. The selection of brands, lifestyle products and installations is very personal, working within a clear aesthetic direction. We don’t follow trends or hype. The most important part of the store is the customer.
You cater for both men and women. Who is your customer?
It’s always been a very difficult question to answer as we have a hugely diverse customer base – people who live in London, international visitors, young and older. A common link through the demographic is the fact that they’re all interested in being introduced to something new.
What’s your definition of good service in today’s retail environment?
It’s the most important aspect of our business – without our customers there is no business. Good customer service is defined by knowledge, being informative, helpful but personable. Most of our long-term customers become friends and building a community this way is a key strength of our business – and for any independent for that matter.
You recently relocated from Carnaby to Soho. How would you describe Soho as a shopping spot today? And might it attract a new clientele?
Soho, and the Berwick Street area in particular, has an energy unlike any other part of London. There is a growing group of independent businesses, from hairdressers and interior design shops to and streetwear stores. There is still a strong local community that supports and promotes ‘local’ businesses… It’s an exciting area in which to have a store. Another encouraging thing about the new space is that we’ve seen a lot of new customers coming in, many of whom live in the area.
Tell us about the new store and the feel of it. And what is the design direction?
Kirk and I had quite a clear vision for how we wanted the store to look, so we designed and worked on the interior ourselves. The space configuration works a lot better than the previous one, with an inviting staircase to the basement where the interior feels more intimate and warm in comparison to the minimal, light-filled ground floor space. We added a bright yellow tiled wall to differentiate the space from the typical gallery-look. It’s certainly a statement, but it lifts the space and creates a great energy. The flow to the space was important, but we wanted to ensure that we kept the ground floor as a blank canvas as the intention is that it’ll work as an installation space for the many projects we have scheduled for the year.
Moving on to your brand lineup, a couple of names have stayed with you for a long time – Stephan Schneider and Peter Jensen being two examples – what is it about these designers that fits the Other Shop concept so well?
We generally work with designers from an early stage of their career, looking to build close and personal relationships. Our customers like being introduced to new brands but they also want to see their ‘favorites’ evolve, buying from them each season. We enjoy accompanying the brands on this journey, and we often discuss with them which styles should become their collection signatures.
What labels and particular items have sold well recently? Any surprise hits?
Men’s brands such as Lemaire and Stephan Schneider continue to perform well. New brands including Japanese brand Still by Hand, unisex name Story MFG and Korean brand Stand Alone were all surprise successes, as we always expect a couple of seasons to pass before a new brand establishes itself. Androgynous, unisex styles and wide-leg trousers sold well from all collections including Other, our own line.
How do you find a balance between your in-house designed line and the external crop of labels you stock? How does Other complement the labels you carry?
The concept of Other stems from a utilitarian way of thinking. The premise is to create signature and core styles, re-appropriating them with fabrics and finishing from season to season. The collection is unisex with no particular seasonality. We create weather-relevant product when needed and the line complements our selection of brands by offering a more simple, affordable and accessible product.
Have you introduced any new labels for SS17 and/or AW17?
For SS17 we’ve brought in London based, men’s influenced womenswear brand Studio Nicholson and Dutch streetwear brand Pop Trading Co.
What are your criteria when selecting new brands? Story MFG and Fanmail, for instance, have a sustainable approach. How important is this for you?
New brands have to offer something different or new and have a taste level in keeping with our existing brands. Ethical sourcing and sustainability are not necessarily criteria but we’ve found both our customers, and indeed ourselves, asking this question of brands more frequently; it does add value to the product.
How important is the online store? What role does it play aside from serving as an e-commerce platform?
We regard our online store as a way to reach a wider audience. It’s an important part of the business but in a noisy and over-saturated market, we hope to offer an alternative and let the online customer find us organically through social or press channels. As a modern retailer, you cannot ignore e-commerce, but it’s not the driving force of our business – but an effective tool for both awareness and positioning. Our own line Other helps drive traffic as it’s exclusively stocked on our website and in our store.