How I set up a vintage shop
Emily Inglis opened Wooden Hill Vintage boutique in Lewes on on 1 October 2010, here she explains how a few doodles sketched out in the pub turned into her dream business.
The shop space
Having graduated in July, I was working in my hometown of London as a freelance journalist. Work was sparse so I decided to move to Lewes where I’d previously spent many weekends with friends.
That month I was having a walk around when I fell upon the space which would become Wooden Hill Vintage. It was advertised as an ‘artists’ space come workshop’. Of course I ignored this and went about announcing to my friend that I was going to open a vintage shop there. The space was at the top of some wooden stairs and my friend’s Dad used to call stairs ‘the wooden hill’, so the name ‘Wooden Hill Vintage’ seemed perfect.
The business plan
Once he realised I had not gone mad and was serious, we decamped to The Office pub in the North Laine and wrote up a very sketchy business plan. As you can imagine, by the end the grand plan by was a series of doodles rather than numbers and guidelines, but it was exciting and I knew it would work, because it was me doing something that I love.
From that day to till we opened, I was busy planting the seed online. As a freelance journalist I work a great deal online and used that experience to ‘build the brand’. The reaction was phenomenal; I wanted the ‘Wooden Hill Vintage’ brand to be interactive, therefore the Facebook proved invaluable in involving people. The website was a great way to showcase the progress of the shop and the stock coming together and we even managed to catch the eye of a leading stylist, who we will now supply with vintage clothing for photoshoots, TV shows and so on.
I cannot stress enough how significant a website can be to a brand, be it clothing, food, books, anything. It opens up your market and you can ultimately create an online product without even having the tangible product ready to sell! It makes you so accessible and it’s so easy. All I did was buy the domain name (do your research, make sure there are no other companies too similar to yours) and then set up a blog and redirected the domain to the blog. Simple. Yet highly effective.
At this point you really need to sit down and think of all the people you know who could help you; for me the focus was on photographers, designers and those who are creative or who already have their own business and you could get advice from. I was lucky enough to know someone under all of these titles and they have been priceless to me and Wooden Hill Vintage. From the Look Book to the logo to stocking upcycled furniture and homemade cards; none of it could have happened without these people. Thus always considering myself to be part of a team here, as opposed to the sole owner.
People always ask where I get my stock; when the idea was born in August, I spent months going to house clearances, antiques stores, in the smaller towns, all over the country.
As time got more tight, I came into contact with a lovely guy who runs a ‘vintage wholesalers’ up North. I was skeptical to start with as I didn’t want to fall into the ‘mass vintage’ kind of store that Beyond Retro is – my service is more bespoke and I have hand-picked every single item in this shop and plan to for years to come. But I was pleasantly surprised by how diverse his stock was and was able to chose items, of a very high quality, to suit my brand and own personal demand as a ‘buyer’, so he has become an excellent source; and there are many like him across the country.
Now the shop is open, and the stock is in, I have naturally continued the push online; with Facebook updates about the everyday running of the shop, uploading photos as I get stock in, taking requests, and so on.
As mentioned before; we have a Look Book being shot as we speak. It’s a fantastic way to showcase that not only do we sell vintage clothing, but the clothing is in keeping with trends and is wearable. Which I think is incredibly important in this day and age when money is tighter and everything we buy we have to ask ‘Will I really wear this?’
If I had any advice to anyone, starting not only a vintage fashion business, but any business, is that you must be doing something you love and something you know. My history is in fashion styling and marketing, as well as journalism and PR, which culminated in the shop. And above all, I love what I’m doing, I love fashion and I love meeting people; which is everything Wooden Hill Vintage is about and always will be.