Newcastle’s Wooly Minded store opening – more details about “the knitter’s paradise”
My coverage of the upcoming Wooly Minded store in Newcastle’s Clayton Street seems to have prompted quite a bit of interest on Twitter, so – never one to shy away from a retail challenge – I thought I’d dig around a little further.
Given that the best way to find things out is from the horse’s mouth, I paid a visit to the existing Wooly Minded shop in North Shields, where the delightful staff were more than happy to fill me in, and to let me take some shots of the colourful and well-stocked interior of the store.
As I suspected, the Newcastle Wooly Minded and those in North and South Shields are one and the same business, run by Susan Cain. The South Shields shop is apparently the bigger of the two, but the ladies were telling me that both shops draw in people from quite a wide area, with customers coming from as far away as Hexham.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Newcastle branch will actually be smaller than either of the existing stores. However, though the unit faces Clayton Street alongside Tesco and Poundland, it’s easy to forget that the shop is wider than it is deep, given that it backs on to the lower-ground floor of Topshop and Topman.
Reinforcing my impressions from Google Street View, it’s true that neither the North Shields Wooly Minded nor the South Shields branch (which I visited a little later) have hugely eyecatching frontages. In both cases, this is due in part to the predominance of brown – rarely an inspiring colour – and some challenging fascia proportions that result in less than half the shopfront actually being window. However, given the shops’ specialist market and ability to draw in shoppers from outside the area, this is less problematic than it would be for a business reliant on attracting passing trade.
I do still think though that the window displays could have more zing – I love the vibrant colours of all the wool inside the shop, and it would be great if more of this could be showcased to the outside world, instead of the pastel shades that currently predominate in both the signage and merchandising.
In Clayton Street, however, having a brand new unit with a much higher proportion of glazing should immediately give Wooly Minded an easier canvas with which to work, and I was reliably informed that the new shop *will* get a bolder and more eyecatching treatment – apparently based around a lime green and black colour scheme, and featuring “flying sheep”.
The Newcastle store will also apparently stock more higher-end wool ranges than the two existing shops, perhaps mindful of the main competition coming from John Lewis and Fenwick, and no doubt also reflecting the significantly higher rental that a city centre spot is bound to incur.
Though a firm launch date for the Newcastle shop is yet to be set, shopfitters are apparently on site already, with an opening likely in mid to late July.
You might quibble over aspects of the existing stores’ shopfront design and window displays, but my overall impression of Wooly Minded is that this is a business that serves its loyal customers really well, thanks to staff that know their stuff and are passionate about what they do – the hallmark, indeed, of many a successful independent retailer.
If the Newcastle Wooly Minded can replicate this friendly and knowledgable service, while creating a store look and feel that reflects its higher-profile location, there’s every reason to expect that it will be a success.