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The Drapers Interview: Leslie Docherty, Fat Buddha

Leslie Docherty is founder of menswear independent Fat Buddha, a cornerstone of Glasgow’s streetwear scene.

Established in 2005, the St Vincent Street store is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month with the launch of two foreign-language websites and limited-edition collaborations.

How is trading?
In 2014 sales rose 20% overall, split between 15% growth in store and 25% growth online. With new releases from Levi’s T-shirts (retailing at £30) and jackets (£155) and Carhartt beanies (£20), we’d expect that trend to keep going.

What are your bestsellers?
Carhartt has been our number one for the past few years and counting - it’s something we’re really proud of. Specifically the brand’s T-shirts (£35) and jackets (£200). A close second would have to be Edwin selvedge denim jeans (£140). Both brands create high-quality garments that are affordable.

What other brands do you have in store?
Fat Buddha is an independent men’s streetwear shop so we sell labels like Obey Clothing (£25 to £200), Palladium (£40 to £100) and leather goods brand Il Bussetto (£45 to £100). We are excited to introduce Californian outdoor brand Patagonia for spring 16. The ethical brand’s signature bags vary from £50 to £100, with jackets averaging £175.

What is your average customer demographic?
I’d say they’re between 18 and 34 years old. While the younger crowd is attracted to brands such as Nike and Puma, the more mature audience is leaning towards labels like Danish brand Wood Wood and Barbour.

Who is the local competition and what sets you apart? Department stores?
No one in Glasgow does what we do and that, along with our customer service, differentiates us.

What is your visual merchandising strategy?
We draw inspiration from past eras, juxtaposing our modern products with vintage furnishing. Another important element is allowing customers to reach out and touch the product, so for example jeans are displayed on lower-level shelves where customers can easily touch them.

In our windows at the moment are Clarks Originals desert boots (£80 to £95) and New Balance trainers (£85).

What do you have planned for the 10th anniversary of Fat Buddha?
We’re proud to be presenting collaborations with some of our favourite brands. Expect limited-edition pieces including Carhartt T-shirts, Edwin Jeans T-shirts and jeans, and Bellroy accessories. Prices haven’t been confirmed yet.

How has the retail industry changed over the past 10 years?
The business hasn’t really changed much to be honest, but customers are evolving. They now research the brands online before making a purchase.

We’ve heard you’re planning to launch French- and German-language websites.
Yes, it’s about time. We’ve got a lot of traffic coming in from our neighbours in France and Germany and decided to take the online experience to them. The euro-based websites are targeted to launch in March.

How has your online presence impacted the business?
I’ve seen a steady rise in ecommerce. Online sales represent 40% of total sales today, compared with 10% three years ago. We’ve come a long way from just another flagship store and are venturing towards becoming multichannel.

How do you use social media to engage consumers?
Instagram and our blog have both played a significant part in our business. For example, I can Instagram a new brand coming in and that literally drives customers to the front door with enquiries. We’re all so connected now thanks to technology, and social media helps break the barrier between a business and its consumers.

What’s in store for 2015?
We’ll look to expand the number of brands on our sister website Iconsume.co.uk, a transactional streetwear lifestyle platform for men and women, which runs alongside Fat Buddha’s online store. While Fat Buddha is exclusively menswear, we are looking to expand into womenswear with Iconsume.co.uk.

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