Solihull continues to be an attractive shopping destination and its wide range of independent businesses and boutiques is a big reason why.
With unique items and expert advice our independents give the High Street that individual quality which the BID love to shout about and promote.
The Vines offers a unique shopping experience, including well known skate and surf companies such as HUF, Brixton, Deus Ex Machina and Magenta, as well as skateboard subsidiaries of Levi’s and Adidas.
A packed house piled in for their grand opening in March confirming what a welcome addition they are to Solihull. We sent along our Digital Communications lead Steven to interview The Vines owner Paul Vale – who lives locally – and discover why he has decided to bring his concept business to the town centre with his first bricks and mortar store.
Steven: Hi Paul, tell us a bit more about yourself – how did you get into running your own business?
The Vines: I’ve always worked in the industry. I used to run the Two Seasons store when it was in Mell Square and I’ve also worked for O’Neill surf company in Birmingham city centre. I was then on the other side of things and was a sales rep for Rip Curl, a big Australian wetsuit brand. I had my own ideas about how I’d like to run things so that’s why I started my own business.
S: At what point did you start thinking about opening up a brick and mortar store?
V: About 18 months ago, I started talking to my wife about the idea. Last January we decided to go for it, we went to trade shows and met with brands to talk about us selling their products – it’s all gone from there.
S: Did you have any reservations about opening up a physical store with the current challenges facing businesses around the country?
V: You would be silly to not consider the challenges, but I know from my time in the industry and from research that it’s still a massive market. Something like 90% of retail transactions globally are still made in a shop. You have to change with the times – if you’re offering the customer something they want in a contemporary way, there is still success to be had.
S: Was Solihull the prime location for you or did you look elsewhere too?
V: Solihull was the only place we really considered. I felt that Solihull was missing something like us and that there was a gap in the market waiting to be filled. I know from my time working at Two Seasons that there is a customer base in Solihull, so it made complete sense. I only looked at units in Mell Square and as soon as we walked into our unit, we got a really good feel for it. We’re just off the High Street which is a bonus and there are some really nice, premium retailers over the road from us like OSKA and Bridge. You then look down Drury Arcade and they’re pretty much all independent businesses that have been there for a long time so that gave me confidence that we were in the right place.
S: What can customers expect to find in store?
V: We’ve got a really good mix of premium brands. We have one brand called Riz Boardshorts and all of their products are made from recycled bottles. If your shorts have worn out after a few years, you can send them back and they will recycle them and give you money off your next purchase. We’ve gone with brands we personally like and who we feel have a good story. We have a lot of cool, upcoming European brands in store who are making a splash in the industry and items in the shop will be exclusive to there – we won’t be selling the same things online.
S: What sort of feedback have you received so far?
V: It’s been really positive. Some people think that skateboarding is still an underground culture kind of thing but it’s super mainstream now – there are 700,000 participants in the UK. Predominantly we will be selling skate items, only 20% will be surf and that will be surf lifestyle items and brands rather than wetsuits and surfboards.
S: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs out there that would like to start their own business?
V: Make sure you’re basing your business around something you’re passionate about. You’ll be doing very long hours so if you don’t have that passion and love connected to it, it’s very easy to give up. For me, I love skating, surfing, and the lifestyle around it so I’ve got that drive. As well as being my business and my job, it’s a hobby as well.