1. Tell me briefly a bit about yourself?
I’ve lived in North Tyneside all of my life and currently live in North Shields. I’m *just* on the right side of 40 and work for a local charity full time so most of my spare time and weekends is spent looking after the business.
2. What made you decide you wanted to start up a business in retail?
I have always been a follower of men’ fashion and just got a bit bored of the offerings and the limited choices available. I like to try things on rather than shop online and I hate huge big shops which are always too busy, too warm and have too many items on the rails so you can’t even look properly. It was never a long term plan however, I just had a bit of a ‘lightbulb moment’ when I was out shopping one day and that’s where it all started from.
3. What was the idea behind Hamiedog?
I’ve always thought that menswear was terribly under represented on the high street. Often in department stores, the mens section is in the basement or in a little corner of the first floor after being forced to walk through the ladieswear. There aren’t a great deal of menswear stores around anymore, less so for independent retailers. I really wanted to change this by being able to offer something which was fashionable but also affordable and perhaps a little bit different to the mainstream offerings. There are a few other independent menswear retailers here in the town but I think we complement each other very well and there’s not really any overlap with the type of goods we sell.
4. How did you get started in this business?
Sourcing funding was the biggest task for me because I had no savings that could be used so I started looking at startup business loans and support. There’s actually plenty of support out there and the process was much easier than I had thought. It does involve lots of preparation though, including writing a business plan and making predictions for sales and cashflow. Before any money is offered, they need to see that you’ve done the hard work and thought everything through properly. There’s only so much you can do of course, but I also had free sessions from business mentors when I was starting out and these were very useful.
5. What about your location. What made you decide on Whitley Bay as an area to trade?
The location of the shop was one of the most important elements for me and Whitley Bay was always at the top of my list. I had to balance things correctly because I didn’t want to start with too big a unit but also didn’t want to be away from a high street out of sight. Park View is a wonderful street and is full of independent retailers so when I saw there were a few small units available I knew that I had to have one of them. I did plenty of research to look at footfall and competition and realised that Whitley Bay was ideal. The shop unit that I chose did need quite a lot of work before it was ready to move into, so a lot of my budget went on rewiring, refurbishing and decoration and making the place secure. Prior to me moving in the unit was a chiropodist and has also been a barbers, sweet shop and offices so it has seen quite a few businesses come and go. Hopefully we will be here to stay for a long time because I can see that 2018 is going to be an exciting time to be in Whitley Bay when the Dome and sea front developments are complete.
6. How long have you been in business?
I got the keys to the shop in July 2016 and opened for business at the end of October 2016 so we’re still new and still getting established.
7. How do you go about getting the clothing which is in your store?
Initially, as a new business that was quite a challenge so I started with using wholesale suppliers for my stock. But after around four months I was approached by a local clothing designer and realised that using local suppliers was going to be a much more beneficial way of doing business. As we began to get more established, more local designers got on board and this has definitely been a massive turning point. Working with local businesses means that you have a much better relationship with your suppliers, on a personal level rather than on a corporate one. We’re really lucky to now have 8 clothing labels in store, all based in the north east.
The ‘shop local’ approach is something which has become very important for us. Because we have such a good relationship with our local suppliers it means that we can sell clothing items which are totally exclusive to our store that people can’t source from anywhere else. Fashion can sometimes be a bit too serious and we have proven in our first year that people like to wear things that are a little bit different to what everyone else has got on. Any t-shirt that has ‘Whitley Bay’, ‘North’ or links to Newcastle on it immediately becomes a best seller. People are proud to be from this part of the country and some of our pieces have made their way as far across the world as Australia. I would say that 80-90% of the stock that we currently have in store is sourced from our local suppliers and this has been so well received by our customers that sometimes it is hard to keep up with demand!
9. How do you market your business?
Marketing is always a bit of a tricky one but I have found the power of social media to be amazing. We post several times a day on Facebook and also use Instagram and Twitter. You have to make things interesting and appealing to users and ensure that you are responsive to any interaction on your pages. I have experimented with paid advertising in magazines and local publications but have found those to be disappointing so social media will be how we continue to market the business in 2018.
10. What made you come up with the name Hamiedog?
Coming up with a name took ages! I thought about using my own name but it just didn’t sound right, and I wanted to use something which was unique that nobody would have ever heard before. Then I remembered about my first pet dog when I was a young child – a Westie called Hamish. We used to call him Hamiedog and the more I thought of that name, the more I liked it as the name for the business. It is often a topic of conversation in the shop, people like to know the story (and how to pronounce it correctly) so it’s a good talking point.
11. If you had one piece of advice to give to someone just starting out in retail, what would it be?
Follow your dreams and don’t give up. There were times when I thought I’d made the biggest mistake in my life by starting a business, and then subsequently being made redundant from my only source of income just as the business had opened, but I’m a firm believer of putting in the hard work and it will pay off. You’ve got to accept that you will make mistakes, it is totally natural and is part of the learning experience but it makes you stronger and helps you to plan for the future. But if you want something to work, you’ve got to put in the effort and give it time.
12. Do you trade only from the shop?
No, we’re online as well at www.hamiedog.co.uk.
13. How would you describe Hamiedog in 3 words?
Small, independent and funky!
14. What are your visions for the future with Hamiedog?
I’d like to continue to grow the business and would love to move into larger premises at some point, but larger premises bring larger challenges so we’ll see how this year goes before making a decision on that one. Our online store has started to become more popular so we’ll be investing in improving our website and building our current customer base. We also will continue to get involved in more local community events and shouting about how important shopping local is. I’m also planning on using more local lads for modelling and am always interested in hearing from local designers who need an outlet for their range. I think the future is bright, we just need more people to get on board and celebrate local businesses and our wonderful shops here in Whitley Bay.
For more information on Hamiedog, check out their website or Facebook page