St Leonards Modern Goods
Situated on Norman Road, St Leonards, this shop has recently celebrated its third anniversary. The shop offers a mixture of clothing, gifts and books, updating the stock on a regular basis. It also incorporates a workshop area where the proprietor, Kay Avery-Stallion, works on the hand-made bag manufacture part of her business.
Kay first moved to St Leonards in 2007. Before this she had been working as an Accessory Designer and Buyer in London, but the pressure of that work was affecting her health. After the move she started working from home designing bags. The original plan was to rebuild her portfolio with fresh designs, but she later moved on to selling at fairs like the Country Living Show, fully launching as a business in 2010. At first, she teamed up with a workshop for the actual production of bags, having only ever done design before. Over time, through a combination of tips from contacts and YouTube videos, she learned how to do the work herself.
Kay Avery-Stallion outside her shop
PICTURE: Steve Brown
The move to a shop unit was an opportunity that almost fell in her lap. The previous tenant wished to break their lease early, and they needed to put forward a new tenant to get the landlord to agree. Their recommendation was Kay, who saw the potential for the space. However, there was one problem that needed to be addressed. To secure the lease she needed to be able to provide a £5,000 deposit, and she was only given 3 weeks to come up with the cash. To solve this issue, she fell back on her database of approximately 700 clients. Using that list, she put together a crowd-funding campaign, pushing for advanced sales of bags to existing customers with delivery within 12 months. It was a lot of hard work, requiring continuous effort and the production of a promotional video (created by local film-maker Endwell Productions) but it all paid off. The target was exceeded by £3,000, leaving additional funds for fitting out the shop.
Initially Kay feared her shop might be considered a bit too ‘Down from London’, and she risked inadvertently embodying the negative stereotype sometimes associated with that phrase. Fortunately, the variety of price points she offered have proved popular with locals, attracting a wide range of customers. Men’s clothing has proved more popular over time, with her advance orders for Spring 2020 doubling from the previous amounts.
She has also engaged with the Hastings art community in a more direct way. The shop displays art from local artists, providing them a sales venue they might not otherwise have. The shop has also taken part in the annual Coastal Currents event and is a distribution point for this very paper. Workshops are also being offered to create bag designs using wallpapers (scheduled for the 1st and 8th September). Such paper bag mock-ups are the first practical test of a design, making it possible to check that the design works without using expensive materials.
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