Author: Clodagh Norton

Retail Inspiration
July 25, 2017

Where? Kings Heath, Birmingham, UK

When? Opened in November 2015

Store type: Independent label specialist

Owner: Janan Choudhury

Q: You are a specialist in independent brands. How did you get into this area? 

A: My optical career began 20 years ago in East London with a pair of cherry red Cazal 607s, so that indie vibe has always been ingrained in me. I have worked with both mainstream and off-beat brands, but that satisfaction of surprising a client with something wholly unexpected takes some beating. It made sense then, when starting up, to get expressive and enjoy the curating process – only the independent brands fulfil that wanderlust for eyewear.

Q: Is the high street as competitive as it seems and how do you differentiate yourself in terms of the stock but also the service?

A: Competition is fierce, but that’s not what scares me the most! We set out our stall to change people’s perception on eyewear, to embrace individuality and to accept a better – more lasting – pair of spectacles that can one day be “tomorrow’s vintage”.

It’s about weaving a story, and tailoring it to each person. It’s about celebrating independent craftsmanship; that’s why we treat our clients to locally sourced handmade luxury chocolates and fruity cordials. The store’s philosophy is to champion all that’s great about being an individual in an ever-homogenous world.

Q: What brands are currently a hit for you?

A: When sourcing eyewear I choose styles and shapes that fit the vibrant local community of Kings Heath, Birmingham. Colour is a major pull, so Bevel and Kirk & Kirk are both grabbing the public’s attention, followed by TAVAT with their quirky Soupcan collection. Life’s too short for boring, thin, black rectangular metal frames.

Q: Are you changing and refreshing your labels regularly, or just taking care over the mix to ensure you have a good choice of eyewear for everyone? You mention on your website that you plan for your catalogue to grow?

A: I firmly believe in building relationships, with clients, the community, the labels we stock. I’d rather build depth in a few lines than cherry pick and dilute with many. Whenever we wish to introduce a new line it must stand out from the rest.

Though catalogue expansion is always on my thoughts, it must have intangibles, that “je ne sais quoi”. Admittedly, I bought in to some “designer” labels to cater for a certain demographic, but that soon fell flat – I didn’t love it, and it’s extremely difficult to sell anything on that basis. Ultimately, it’s expensive stock that I just had to flog off on the graveyard of online shopping: ebay. 

Q: What is your success based on - team spirit, expertise in small labels or the ability to offer an alternative?

A: I have an insatiable appetite for eyewear, constantly researching indie brands and learning about new concepts. We’re living in an incredible era of creativity and innovation in our industry, yet the British market is slow to embrace this - that makes our store stand out.

The whole client journey is important, from the assured smile at the start to that shared moment when they collect their eyewear… and beyond! I regularly keep in touch with clients and invite them for coffee. I just love communicating, making friends, learning from others, and I’m sure my clients feel the same way.

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