We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Simon Lister, marketing manager of the UK-based clothing and footwear retailer End Clothing. Created in 2005, End Clothing started out as a cozy 2-story shop on High Bridge in Newcastle stocking some of the world’s finest streetwear, sportswear, casual and outdoor wear, along with a bit of fashion. Since its humble beginnings, End has evolved from a relaxed shop tucked away in North East England to a detailed operation consisting of 2 distinct retail shops as well as a comprehensive online store carrying everything from A.P.C. to VISVIM, all while staying true to their original goals and vision.
With both a physical presence and online store we went ahead and asked Mr. Lister a few questions regarding End in hopes of gaining insight into the store’s success and operation. Take a look below for the full interview.
You run 2 retail locations, what are the advantages and disadvantages to running an online store?
End opened its door in 2005. We are located on High Bridge which is a small cobbled street in the City Centre that runs in-between Grey Street (voted the finest street in Britain a few years back) and the Bigg Market (notorious drinking epicentre in the city). In 2006 we launched the website and in the autumn of 2009 we opened End Hunting Co. which is just 2 doors down from the original End store. The website covers all of our brands, whereas the stores are set up to represent different lines. So in End we stock the sneakers, street wear and high-end sportswear, and End Hunting Co is the more casual, outdoors, fashion brands.
The clear advantage to having an online store is the full representation of all our brands in one place, along with the worldwide customer base that we can tap into. Obviously not every guy in the world is into sneakers or Japanese brands etc. so the online store allows us to reach the pockets of people across the globe that are into the product / brands we sell. It’s always great to see orders coming in from all corners of the globe. Other than the logistics of packaging and shipping when we first started out, we don’t really see any downsides of representing our store online.
How do you manage to stand out in a sea of online stores and how do you stay on top?
The values for the store are simple: to stock the best products with the friendliest and most helpful service. In order to differentiate ourselves from the crowd, our buyers source products and brands from far and wide. Over the last couple of seasons we’ve tried to focus in on more high-end exclusive products and Japanese brands to feature alongside our fashion and street-wear ranges. We try to generally buy deep into collections and brands. If we are into a brand, we like to represent them as fully as we can.
What is your background and what did you do before running the store? / Who chooses the featured designers?
The buyers / directors behind End are Christiaan and John. They started the first store pretty much fresh out of University and are still involved in the company every day and are responsible for all of our buying. Neither had a background in fashion, they simply saw a gap in the market for a menswear store through their own frustration with the lack of brands available here in Newcastle.
How do you decide which new brands to stock?
We try and go to all the major tradeshows throughout the year and we listen to what our customers are telling us both in-store and online. Ultimately everyone that works here is pretty obsessed with menswear so there is never a shortage of new brands to check out and ideas to push things forward.
Do customers often return? Why do you think that is?
We have a really good level of customer retention. The feedback we receive from the customers indicates that we stock a range of brands that they want and our service / delivery is up there with the best. Obviously we are human and do occasionally make mistakes but the important point is to communicate with customers and be transparent with them. For these reasons customers come back to us.
Are most of your customers based in Europe? How do you attract customers from the US?
We have a strong UK / European customer base. However since launching the endclothing.com site last year we are seeing a growing customer base in Russia, Hong Kong and the USA.
Do you work with any local brands or designers and how do they fare in the global market?
We have a really great relationship with Nigel Cabourn. We work closely with both him and his team. He’s a local designer who lives and works just a mile away from the stores. He has a really strong local following and customer base, and online his collections always sell very well for us.
What are your favorite picks at the moment?
Our long standing relationship with British shoemakers Tricker’s continues to go from strength to strength, and our sixth collaborative ‘special make ups’ with the brand showcases why the Northampton-based craftsmen are so highly regarded. Our latest styles are modelled on two of Tricker’s more celebrated profiles; the Bourton Derby Brogue and the Stow Brogue Derby Boot. Both are supremely constructed using Goodyear welting, with carefully considered materials – such as cavalier and calf leather – and finished luxuriously with outdoor-inspired lacing, metal eyelets and a lugged commando sole for maximum grip in bad weather. Each shoe features a cotton twill heel tab in either red, white or blue, in recognition of Tricker’s place as a true British institution.
Also, we work closely with the team at New Balance regularly visiting their UK factory in Flimby where the ‘Made in the UK’ range is produced. It is great to be able to support quality English manufacturing and the care and workmanship that goes into the shoes is unbeaten. They have a solid heritage and pedigree in running and a fantastic lifestyle approach and attitude to well-designed product.
CHUP make the best socks, which are frankly perfect for cold Northern winters and brightening up the dark mornings. They look great with any pair of boots and are made by Japanese textile experts Glen Clyde, crafted using the finest materials.
What do you think will be popular next season?
We try not to deal or think too much in trends, it’s not really our thing. Instead we like to concentrate and focus on strong products / brands which have a solid quality and aesthetic that will stand the test of time and outlast seasonal fads.
How do you bring the level of intimacy and care so well-maintained in your brick and mortar shops to your online store?
It’s always difficult to convey a personal touch online. The hurdle for any online store is that the customer can’t touch, feel or try on the items. We try to get around this by using good photography and accurate description / sizing information, plus a hassle-free returns policy. Good communication and engaging with customers makes them feel valued, and we’ll happily chat to anyone who rings us and talk them through any products to help them with their purchases.
You guys have a very active social media presence, how does that tie in to your online store and what can you do on those networks that you can’t with a regular website or blog?
The traditional website / blog model is a very one way “published” communication. With social media for us it is all about the instant engagement with our customers and having a two-way conversation with them.
What kind of changes, if any, should we expect from End in the future?
We are always working to evolve and improve both our product range and service. Our quest to source new brands from every corner of the globe continues and we have a few pretty special new additions due to land with us in the New Year. We would love to work on a new concept store in Newcastle to create something really special here in the north of England. Aside from that our website will be evolving in early 2013.