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Why Public Desire is seeking new customers with bricks and mortar


Fast fashion footwear label Public Desire is making its bricks-and-mortar debut through a new wholesale venture with shoe retailer Soletrader, which is launching on Friday 8 September. As the brand tests the waters of physical retail, Drapers caught up with managing director Qasim Akhlaq about its expansion plans.

Why did Public Desire partner with Soletrader?

Qasim akhlaq

Qasim Akhlaq

The conversation with Soletrader started at the Drapers Footwear Awards, and it took off from there. For us, we wanted to get into bricks-and-mortar and explore our options for different models on the high street. Among the usual suspects for footwear, Soletrader didn’t cover fast fashion, so a full partnership with them is a good fit for us. It also boosts our coverage.

We’ll be stocked in 17 Soletrader stores across the UK and taking over their shop windows. We’re still talking about setting up our own stores in LA and in the UK, so it’s a great way to get a taste of how popular a bricks-and-mortar offering would be with our customers.



What prompted the move onto the high street? 

For us, going into wholesale is about covering our bases and reaching territories that haven’t heard of Public Desire. It’s about growing the label in different ways.

More fast fashion retailers, such as Missguided, are going into footwear and starting to move into bricks-and-mortar, which is a challenge. With this, it’s about sticking to our guns and remembering what makes us successful, so that we can continue taking in the growth we’ve been seeing.

How will the brand ensure its first venture into bricks-and-mortar is a success?

We’ll be working very closely with Soletrader to make sure we’re on the same wavelength, and discuss the sorts of styles they imagine will work, and how crazy to go with the product offering. At the same time we’ll be making sure it represents the brand.

As a first trial run we’ll be playing it safe, and learning who the Soletrader customer is. The collection will mainly cover newer ranges of going-out heels, ankle boots and sandals, hot off the production line.


What is the brand’s wholesale strategy?

Strategically, we’ll be looking at opportunities and making sure we form beneficial partnerships with well-known names. We want to make sure the demand for wholesale is there.

While we’re not currently in discussions with anyone else in the UK at the moment, we’ll be launching on Zalando by the end of September. We’re also looking at different territories. For us, it’s about the quality of people we’re working with, not the quantity.

Why has the fast fashion footwear sector become more competitive?

The market is filling up, not just with new companies but also existing ones that are expanding. It’s an open market – everyone runs in the same circles so there aren’t many secrets. It is also much easier nowadays for brands to start their own businesses online. Social media is the main driver for this. It’s much easier to do your homework on everything now than it was two or three years ago. 

Soletrader’s view

Nicole Cottrell, social media manager at Soletrader, said the collaboration will attract a trend-focused female shopper to the footwear retailer: ”The Public Desire collaboration is such an exciting one for us – they have such a strong Instagram following and pride themselves on creative and innovative fast fashion, which is so important in the current market, especially when feeding products into social as it’s so heavily saturated with fashion and trend influence. To be the first in-store stockist of Public Desire really is a privilege and we can’t wait to see how our customers will respond. We understand that staying relevant and relatable is of paramount importance and we’re looking forward to catering for customers who want affordable, trend-led pieces.”


The Drapers verdict

As more etailers seek a physical presence on the high street, it will be interesting to see how Public Desire’s new venture with Soletrader will evolve, and how it will stack up against rival etailer Missguided’s partnership with high street multiple Schuh. While the relationship between stockists and brands remains a delicate balancing act, the venture could go a long way in ramping up the brand’s business and visability among consumers. 

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