In talks with founder of long successful retailer, PsycheMonday, 10 September 2012
Why do you think you’ve remained such a successful retailer over such a long period and a fashion landscape that has seen plenty of changes over the years?
Part of the philosophy of Psyche is ‘Kaisen’, the Japanese practice of constant improvement and by following this ethos we have ensured the store has remained fresh, interesting and relevant. The most recent testament to this is the store’s current series of major re-fittings, which keeps it new and cutting edge, whilst continuing to present the very best in customer service excellence. We have always reacted to our customers and what they want and have come to expect – they have responded with their continued loyalty to the store and our brands. And whether it be 30 years ago, when I founded the business, or today’s climate, my passion for the industry has never dwindled and I think this has been integral in seeing Psyche through.
How have you kept Psyche niche and need to know about in the market?
As our customers evolve and their needs constantly change, we too work alongside their demands and the trends of the industry. We have a genuine interest in the industry and are always on the lookout for new, innovative brands and designs. At 35,000 square feet, we are the size of a department store, but have the feel and passion of an ‘uber boutique’ – a seldom achieved, rare quality for a fashion retailer.
What would you say are your most notable developments over the years – both from a sales and retail point of view?
We have actively courted all of our suppliers, so that we have built a close working relationship with them. We have worked hard to become as recognised by major international suppliers as those in London and this has manifested itself into some remarkable achievements. For example, Psyche is the biggest stockist of Original Penguin in the World with the brand being so successful in store it has expanded its area to almost three times its original size! We are also the biggest stockist of J.Lindeberg in the UK, the biggest stockist of both Armani and Hugo Boss in the UK by any independent retailer and the biggest stockist of UGG Australia in the North.
Over the years, what has been your biggest challenge and most satisfying retail moment?
One of our biggest challenges was acquiring and restoring the old 35,000 sq ft Uptons department store in 2002 where Psyche is today. We re-sculptured the entire building in a £2m development that took almost 12 months to complete. Our aim was to create ‘retail theatre’ in a way that was subtle and alluring, whilst not diverting attention away from the stunning collections available in store. We strongly felt that the store’s design should embrace the quality of any world-class fashion emporium whereby the interior design becomes the subtle backdrop to the clothing on show.
On a personal level, the most satisfying moment was being invited by the British Fashion Council to meet the Queen and Prince Phillip at Buckingham Palace. I’ve had numerous royal encounters throughout my years in business including a visit from Princess Anne when Psyche had two smaller boutiques. More recently I attended a royal reception at St James’ Palace this year, where I was just one of three independent UK retailers invited by the British Fashion Council to the launch of the men’s fashion event, London Collections: Men.
You have also seen huge success in your online portal – why do you think you’ve bridged the gap between a physical store and online offering so well – where others have struggled?
We try to keep the Psyche brand consistent, what we do in-store is mirrored online. The high standards we maintain in store are also passed on to the online business.
It has always been my priority to ensure all of our business streams operate under one roof, and as a result we have a whole floor dedicated to picking and packaging for online facilities. This helps us to maintain high standards and is good from a logistics point of view.
What are the Psyche future plans/developments?
We have 17 major shop fits planned for this autumn so the whole building is set to undergo major renovation and we’re obviously gearing up to celebrate our 30th year.
The region is notoriously undernourished as far as hotels are concerned with just one four star hotel in the local area which holds an annual occupancy rate of more than 86 per cent. Responding to the rise in demand for accessible, luxury hotels, we commissioned Harkin Associates to design a futuristic £5m hotel and restaurant development to situate above the existing Psyche store, complete with an external panoramic glass lift for independent access.
The design focuses on expanding the Psyche concept by creating a key landmark and iconic structure in an ultra-modern form, which is capable of projecting a vision of Middlesbrough as a major global lifestyle destination. Construction is proposed to commence in January 2014 and will be completed by early 2015.
Image: Steve Cochrane outside Psyche