Robert Wade-Smith, one of the most influential independent retailers of the 1990s, is poised to make a return to retail.
Wade-Smith – who famously sold his eponymous five-store designer mini chain to Arcadia for £17m in 1998 before buying it back for £7m in 2001 – will showcase the best in niche, young design talent in his independent store concept, saying smaller brands are the “zeitgeist”.
The independent store concept – which has the working title Future Market – is Wade-Smith’s first retail foray since his eponymous chain hit the buffers in 2006.
He is credited with kick-starting Liverpool’s penchant for big-brand designer fashion by bringing big-name designer brands to the city, but he told Drapers that now was the time for small brands to come to the fore.
Wade-Smith is set to open 12 stores, which will work on a concession model, renting space to brands with a turnover of between £1m
and £2m. Target locations include Edinburgh, Harrogate and Liverpool, and the first store will open
The entire stock within each store will rotate around each location on a weekly basis. The stores will be merchandised using small-size shipping containers that can be easily removed from one shop and driven to the next.
Rather than stocking big-brand names such as Hugo Boss and Armani Jeans, with which he is associated, Wade-Smith said he wanted to “fertilise” young design talent.
“What we are going to do with this is the antithesis of what we were doing back then,” said Wade-Smith. “I have been in the business of big brands for 25 years and smaller brands are the zeitgeist now.”
Wade-Smith added: “I’m trying to catch brands that may be considering going down the retail route. I’ll find the location and manage the logistics. We’ll merchandise the store within half an hour, like a pit stop.”
A website will go live at the same time as the first store opens. It is expected to replicate the in-store experience, with a strong emphasis on branded product areas.