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Shopwatch video: tour a London independent pioneering a new retail experience

Open As Usual is a new appointments-only independent with a focus on ethical, high-quality clothing.

Shopwatch: Open As Usual

Despite the name, there is nothing usual at all about Open As Usual. Hidden behind a faded red frontage and frosted windows – with no signage save the protruding white banner for the neighbouring New Cross Tandoori – lies a minimalist indie haven.

Open As Usual stocks both menswear and womenswear and opened in New Cross, south-east London, just five months ago. On weekdays, the store is open by appointment only. Owner Daniel Carroll has a background in product design and no previous retail experience. He opened this, his first store, in the hope of pioneering a radically different retail experience, inspired by his frustration with the high street and his passion for Japanese aesthetics.

Open As Usual

Open As Usual

The 260 sq ft space stocks both mens and womens clothing from a selection of 25 curated brands, primarily from Japan, the UK and the US, and has an accompanying ecommerce site, open-as-usual.com. Currently, most of Open As Usual’s sales come from the store, but Carroll is relaunching its website at the end of this month, and is aiming to make the ecommerce aspect his main focus. The store will act more as a studio space.

Open As Usual

Open As Usual

The key for Carroll was to create a personal, relaxed shopping experience for his customers, a far cry from the typical high street experience: “Personally, I don’t like shopping on the high street. I find it unpleasant – it’s too manic and there’s too much choice”. Although he admits to doing most of his shopping online, with Open As Usual Carroll aims to use the discreetly personalised touch of a shop appointment to complement its online offer. “People want to be able to come and try on clothes in a relaxed, non-pressured environment,” he says.

The focus he has on the personal extends to his buying technique – Carroll avoids seeking brands at trade shows. Instead, he approaches those he likes directly, and endeavours to build personal relationships with them.

While he is adamant that Open As Usual is not an “eco-store”, most of brands it stocks focus on natural materials and dyes. The store’s overall offering is a selection of high-quality basics from brands such as Story Mfg, Lunge and Niuhans, many of which are not stocked elsewhere in the UK.

Carroll was keen to ensure the space was appropriate for its south London location: “This street doesn’t need a shop that sells expensive clothes. Some of the stock isn’t affordable for the majority of the local area and I need to be conscious of that.” Prices in the store range from £15 for a basic T-shirt to £340 for a technical jacket.

Open As Usual

Open As Usual

In line with his sensitivity to the local area, on Saturdays the store opens its doors for normal hours of trading. To encourage locals into the shop, he parteners with local businesses to arrange pop-up market stalls outside the doors on the weekend, selling everything from terrariums and houseplants to books.

While Carroll admits business was inconsistent to begin with, he says he is pleased with how the customer base is growing, and most appointments he takes resultin purchases. Alongside the website, future plans for Open As Usual revolve around education and involvement for his customers and the local community. The store already hosts workshops on subjects such as indigo dying, and soon the website will expand to include educative features and guidance, such as detailed garment care instructions, and brand interviews. Carroll hopes this will ensure customers are more engaged with the process behind their clothes.

 

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