I Dig Your Sole Man - In Their Shoes; Fat Buddha Store

To celebrate 10 years in the business our friends over at I Dig Your Sole Man have interviewed the founder and owner of Fat Buddha Store Leslie Docherty about the pitfalls of retail and the changing game of streetculture trends.

I Dig Your Sole Man has been designed to investigate and celebrate all facets of the global sneaker community through photography, films and storytelling, all sharing and celebrating this iconic part of street culture. IDYSM was launched in 2009 as the world’s first ever street blog designed exclusively around sneaker culture, showcasing the stories of people on the street who all champion sneaker style in their own way. Head over to IDYSM to check out this post and many other great pieces or read the full interview below:

IDYSM: Hey Leslie. Congrats on the 10 year anniversary. How does it feel to have reached this poignant milestone?

LESLIE: Quite pleasing, especially when competitors keep on opening, and then closing, the big retailers are just getting bigger, it’s a really hard time to be an independent retailer. This economic crisis was more than a bit tough, online trading is proving to be a real challenge, there is is a lot of oversupply and heavy discounting out there just now. But on a positive note, we are 10 years strong and feel that our brand mix is the strongest it’s ever been, a good reflection of where the store is at.

IDYSM: For those who don’t know can you please give us the lowdown on the store, and what you’re all about.
LESLIE: We are a premium menswear store, so we carry a wide range of products that appeal to all your needs: Footwear, Clothing, Accessories, Books & Mags and Art Supplies. More of a lifestyle store, and this is what makes us unique, we cater to a wide customer base.
If we were just a clothing or footwear store, it would be quite dull, but having the wide product mix makes the store interesting and vibrant, with the art supplies we get all the writers in-store and with the men’s grooming we get all the hipsters, so the store caters to a wide range of people, male and female.

Fat Buddha Shop 24 September 2014-1
IDYSM: What’s been the evolution of the store; how did it begin, and where’s it at right now?

LESLIE: We started off when Maharishi was killing it, all the ‘now’ big American streetwear brands were just starting to break through, it was all quite fresh and just at the point when the main streetwear blogs were in their infancy (and back then they just wrote about streetwear), the hype kids were just starting to switch onto product.
Just now, we are still trying to figure out how to make money, after 10 years you would think retailing would get easier, but it is a constant challenge, every year brings a new challenge, ‘retail is just a series of challenges to overcome’.

Fat Buddha Shop 7 October 2014-2
IDYSM: A lot has changed in 10 years. Something worth a mention is the boom of online shopping which has really hurt many retailers. How have you embraced this and survived, and how much of your business is now International?

LESLIE: Online shopping is about 40% of what we do, we are launching a .de & .fr version of our site this year, full French & German language, so for us International is very important, the UK online market is really well developed, good growth is only available in Europe.
Social Media for us has seen a few changes, it’s all about Instagram and our blog, Facebook is dead and Twitter is not the right medium to talk to our customer. We hit our 2,000,000 visitor beginning of the year, but the blog takes a lot of time to keep the content relevant and interesting, but the long-term traffic benefits are worth it. Keeping a constant stream of Instagram images involves a great level of work, everyone has upped their game and some Instagram accounts are smashing it, the quality threshold is very high, we like to think we are good, but we keep on evolving. If you are a customer and you want to buy a pair of Nike SB Janoski Max in Black, go to Google type this into shopping and sort results price to low, you’ll find a £90 pair of shoes somewhere for about £55, and with free shipping, there’s always a retailer somewhere going bust, having a sale, trying to pay a VAT bill, also someone discounting a product somewhere, there’s a huge problem with oversupply in the marketplace.

IDYSM: The other thing that online has changed is people’s knowledge of what else is going on in the world. Has this changed how you operate at all, and do you see styles more international than regional now?

LESLIE: Not so much, UK is still the leader, we make fashion, we know how to make good fits on clothing, most of the US brands are way behind, poor quality fabrication, boxy fits and the same tired prints season after season. Some US streetwear brands that I won’t name (incase we work with them again) are regurgitating the same logo driven prints every season, with only a few changes, after about 3 seasons you see the same repitition again and again and again.

 Fat Buddha Shop 7 October 2014-6
IDYSM: What’s the local scene like in Glasgow and how does that influence you/what you stock?

LESLIE: The local scene here is not so big, there aren’t a lot of sneaker collectors, there are some but 95% of our customer is just a guy looking for a pair of Nike, doesn’t know and doesn’t care about ‘Colabs’, ‘Quickstrike’, ‘Launch dates’ or any of that hype, he might buy the colab shoe if it’s a nice shoe, but the hype is nowhere as big up here.

IDYSM: How does it feel to be 10 years in and lucky enough to be working with some major brands on some exclusive product?

LESLIE: It feels like a constant challenge, the further you are from London, the harder it is to get any recognition, and the harder it is to get anyone to pay attention, it just makes us try a bit harder. This month sees the launch of the Carhartt 25th Anniversary range, luckily we are one of the chosen few stocking it, quite a bit of buzz about the range already, and we will do one of our store parties for the launch, some great product and its very democratically priced. 

IDYSM: How did you get to this stage and how do you ensure you stay on top of your game?

LESLIE: We got here by being selective in what brands we brought into the store, we knock back brands every week, in retrospect we could/should have been even more selective. We now have a wish list of 3 or 4 brands that we want to bring in store, and we are trying to curate our brand roster a bit more. We are reducing our product offering, which seems to be against the grain, but does the customer really need to see Backpacks from 10 different brands, why don’t you make it easy and only buy from the best 4 brands that only make bags, sometimes in the desire to stock every brand, you make it hard for the customer to find the really good stuff.
Sell through is the key, as much as you might love a brand, if it’s not hitting 60% sell through pre-sale then something needs to change, loyalty comes in, some brands will work with you, others not so much.

IDYSM: 2005 – 2015; what defining street culture trends and influences have helped shape that period?
LESLIE: All over print, Sneaker colabs, celebrity clothing ranges, heritage, vintage.
Fat Buddha Shop 7 October 2014-4 
IDYSM: And what about the present day, where are we at right now, is this a defining era in street fashion and culture?

LESLIE: No, there is nothing interesting happening just now, ignoring Kanye & Pharell the market place is in Limbo, everyone is waiting on the next big thing. The past few years have been a bit of a low point for me, I know how good it is by how much I buy as a customer, and I haven’t been buying much at all.The brands are desperate to find the next big thing, if I see another Pharell colab, I think I’m going to go crazy. Brands are trying hard to segment the marketplace, even Timberland has a ‘Tier 0’, it has just got a bit crazy. 
IDYSM: What does the future hold for you and the store?

LESLIE: We are in the process of moving to a new store, we have been looking for over a year as we need to be careful and find the right store, in the right place, and create the right vibe with the shop fit. It’s a bit of a daunting task, coupled with keeping the old store open whilst we fit out the new one, then do the old switcheroo, going to be a bit of a juggling act.
Our current store will become a Mexican fast food joint, there’s not a great deal of profit in selling shoes, so we need to keep our overheads really tight. 

IDYSM: It’s time to ask the time old question that I end all ‘In Their Shoes’ interviews with; what’s on your feet right now?

LESLIE: Puma ‘Made In Italy’ Courts Shoes, £150 shoes I bagged two pairs for £25 each from Hanon last month when they had a massive clear-out, the quality of the leather is top notch and the build quality is bomb proof, very good investment.


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