The Shop Floor Project: shop launch

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Shop Floor Project, a British online retail brand which sells a variety of homewares from wallpaper and ceramics to books and prints, has opened its first real-life shop -  in the market town of Ulverston, Cumbria, where the brand's headquarters is based.

WGSN-homebuildlife spoke to Denise and Samantha Allen, the mother-and-daughter team behind The Shop Floor Project, to find out more about developing a bricks-and-mortar shop from a digital retail concept.
What led you to take the shop from a digital to a bricks-and-mortar format?

We have always wanted a physical space, in fact that was what prompted the initial design for the site six years ago. We wanted to create a virtual shop to appease our longing for an actual one. Now we have both!

And what attracted you to this particular location?

Ulverston is a small market town which has a strong identity and lots going on. We adore traditional crafts and the town still supports numerous craft-workers who thrive in the old alleyways and tall warehouses in the centre of town. From a cobbler's, working in what can only be described as a workshop straight out of Dickens, to an upholsterers in Buxton Mews, seamstresses and haberdashers in a converted 19th century spice warehouse in Lower Brook Street and a grandfather clock repairer and retailer in Upper Brook Street.

There was this wonderful large empty shop located in the heart of the conservation area of Ulverston, which could easily be mistaken for a pre-war shopping street, and we knew it was the one for us as soon as we saw it. We are aware that it may seem an unusual idea to open a shop in the current economic market, but we actually feel small market towns are having a resurgence, as people recognise the importance of local shops and that they give a place soul. It’s certainly the case in Ulverston - there isn’t an empty shop in south Market Street.

The Shop Floor Project bricks-and-mortar shop
How does the bricks-and-mortar product offer differ from the online offer? Are there differences between the two?

We've noticed that people buy more tactile items in the shop, whilst online we sell more books and prints - things we can write about a bit more. In the shop we have more space for display but online we have more space where we can write about the piece - it's really interesting. We've also started selling a rage of Ortgia in the glass pharmacy cabinet which we don't sell online.

The Shop Floor Project online
In terms of VM, and how the store is laid out, does this connect to the layout of the website at all? Was that a consideration? 

The things we have learned whilst developing and laying out the online shop over the past six years have helped make the Ulverston shop feel really unique. We've added fun touches such as sign writing on the counter and giant chimney pots in the window. We like to play with scale online, and that has influenced how we designed the layout of the shop. We’ll also feed ideas into the online space that we have rolled out in the shop, which will hopefully make the website feel even more ‘real’.

And finally, what’s next for the Shop Floor Project? 

It's full steam ahead with the shop and online space - we're launching a new textile department online and in the shop, and curating an exhibition of ceramic artists working in the UK.