After working as a sales rep around the UK for brands such as Rip Curl and Circa Footwear, Paul wanted to showcase the best of British brands in one place. The Vines originally started as an online store and grew from 15 brands to around 50 within 18 months of it starting. The Vines Supply Company opened their first store in Solihull in March of this year.
Please could you tell me more about how the company came about. Who the key players are in the management of the business are.
The business was started in 2014 with the website launching on the 25th of October. It began as a platform for UK based board sports companies to showcase their product and their brand. I’d worked in the industry for many years both in retail and as a sales agent for brands like Rip Curl and Circa footwear. As an agent going to a large number of the UK’s retailers I was seeing many businesses and started to think about how I would do things if I ever had my own retail business. One of the things that struck me was the huge number of brands on the shelves that were imports, mainly from the States and Australia. I was seeing more and more UK based brands but they only seemed to be making an impact on a regional scale and not breaking through to a more national customer base. I had an idea to bring all the UK brands I was seeing together in one place and try to promote the best of what we had to offer here in Britain and so started to contact people to see if they would be interested in being a part of it.
The e-store was launched with around 15 brands, several of whom we still work with today. It had a great reaction and grew to around 50 brands within 18 months and has gone from strength to strength since its inception. Until this year I was running the business on my own in my spare time whilst doing my full time job during the day. In early 2018, along with my wife, we made the decision to open a bricks and mortar store and go full time with the business. To ensure the viability of a bricks and mortar store we of course had to expand our portfolio and so opened out the offering to include complimentary, internationally renowned brands, but keeping an emphasis on European and, particularly, British ones.
Who’s on the management team?
Currently the management team is just myself and my wife, and occasionally the big bosses Reuben (4) and Everly (2)!
When did you open your first physical location?
We opened our first physical location in Solihull in March this year.
Please explain your offering and how you’re combining online and bricks and mortar
Our offering is about 30% hardware and 70% soft goods currently. Everything available in store is also online currently but as we grow we’ll definitely look to offer some in store only options.
Which brands have you seen the best success with in the past 12 months and who do you expect to shine in the next 12?
Thrasher has been incredible from the start, as well as Polar Skate Co and Rip N Dip. Stance socks have really started taking off in the last few weeks too. Just from how much we like them, we’d hope Sour Solution, Magenta and Hélas continue to blow up. They’re all putting out some really tight collections.
What have been the biggest lessons learned since opening?
Don’t rely on one sales channel too much. If we’d have just assumed people would come charging at the b & m store and took our eyes off the online side of things we’d be in some serious trouble ?. Growth has got to come organically so don’t forget to keep the focus on the things you’ve done well to get you to where you are.
What percentage of your business is done online Vs in store?
As its still so early for the b&m store were still at around 70% online and 30% in store. We’d expect this to level out more in the coming months to around 60/40.
What are the biggest lessons retailers need to learn about online shopping today?
Its always changing, so change with it or get left behind!
How do you compete with Amazon?
If I competed with Amazon I wouldn’t be answering this sat in the shop in Solihull, I’d be on my yacht in Barbados about to paddle out at Soup Bowls ?
How do retailers compete with brands’ D2C strategies?
I think its easier to entice customers will multi-brand offerings as people are generally only going to like a small percentage of a certain brand collection. They can mix and match and see what others are offering that they might end up preferring.
How do you monitor and maximise sales from customers while either in store or on your website?
In store we always ensure we fully understand a customers requirements by asking plenty of questions. This makes it easier to suggest potential add-ons or upsells and so maximising sales.