Now entering its tenth year of trading the UK’s number one on-line clothing store is so much more than just a place to get quality garms and urban apparel. They sponsor acts and events, they have their own radio show, release mixtapes, the list is endless. Here is an interview that Brendan Deane did with Glyn Berrington, the man behind the whole situation.
Hi Glyn, thanks for taking the time out to do this interview. So let’s kick off by giving people a little bit of a background about The Urban Shop. When exactly did you start doing what you are doing and tell us how it all unfolded.
Well it all started back in 1999 when a couple of friends were looking to get into e-commerce, 5 months later headstrong was born and they realised they needed somebody to run things as the manager they had in was a bit flaky. November 99 they employed me and a week later sacked they other guy and put me in charge but that was a joke. These guys were suits, had no interest in what we did and didn’t understand the whole scene that we were involved in consequently nothing happened and I couldn’t manage anything. A few years on they realised they were not making money one of the partners dropped out and eventually the remaining partner made me an offer which we chatted about and in 2002 I took over Headstrong. The first year I took over I made major changes and we saw an increase in business by 400-500%.
You used to be called Headstrong but changed to The Urban Shop. Why was that?
Man that was one of those suit things, you know you are made an offer in good will and you bite the mans hand off but in the mists of it all you don’t dot all the i’s an cross all the t’s and they come back and bite your ass. I don’t want to go into it too much right now but we didn’t own the domain name headstrong.co.uk and were offered it for rent by the owner for £25,000.00 which is silly, so we changed the name proving that we could do it all again and that the name was not important, but a costly lesson that still goes on but that’s another story.
I see you support a lot of the smaller UK underground labels, rather than the typical US or mainstream lines. Why is this and is supporting independent something you see as important?
That goes back to my background, I was brought up the punk rock scene and went on to compete internationally in an underground sport that had no funding, so the concept of DIY and doing it better appeals to me and I understand what it’s like to get up at 5am every morning to train then work 8 hours a day, go back to the gym till about 9pm for nothing more than the love of it and that answers your question, that’s why we support the little guy, the underground.
Ten years trading! That’s a long time! Congratulations too that. Over the ten years you must have seen a lot of changes. How is it different now to when you first started? Is it better or worse?!
Better, worse it don’t matter everyday you get up and apply yourself, everyday you learn and everyday you try and earn a crust. I don’t have time to worry about wannabies, ifs and buts, I don’t watch other sites and worry about what they are doing and what brands are big, looking for the next bandwagon to jump on I just do what I do.
What lines did you do really well with in 2008? What are you top sellers?
2008 what a year all that doom and gloom. Zoo York always sells well for us, I think people know that we have done Zoo since we start (almost), that we understand the brand and that we get the biggest and best product in the UK because of that. Lumberjack shirts did well as was predicted, the Orisue and Insight carrot leg jeans did well I don’t think any other sites took these styles so it was like a real core find, Selvedge denim finally took off for us after pushing it for years. Winter jackets are something we always do well with again not many people carry bigger jackets has the last few years the winters have been kinda warm, and of course all over prints from the likes of Nomis which as only just entered the UK market.
What can we expect for the 2009 season? Anything that people should be up on?
Right now it’s just a progression of 2008 plaid is still there, selvedge denim, all over prints but mainly from core brands not bandwagon jumpers. I think 09 will be slim pickins brands are going bang, changing hands and retailers are playing it cautious.
You seem closely connected with a bunch of musicians from all genres including Hip-Hop, Grime, Dubstep, Dub Reggae, Drum’n’Bass, etc. Let’s talk about some of the people that you have previously sponsored.
Yeah again the way we sponsor is random I personally have to like what they are doing or the person behind the music which is why things are varied. We have strong connections with UkRunnings, Wolftown, Tricksta and LATE those guys have been through thick and thin with us and I support everything they do because I respected them 100% . Other than that off top of my head we sponsor http://www.bringdaruckus.com a Scottish hip hop site, Juttla dubstep, RealTalk magazine a reggae dancehall publication, HHBRadio.com and Out of Your Mind, Jelluzz grime and even as random as Drifter Jon a guy who races drift as in Tokyo Drift.
You have the new mixtape and DVD ‘100% Exclusive’ out at the moment with leading UK mixtape series UK Runnings. How did all that come about and tell us how you met up with Tricksta and UK Runnings.
Me and Tricksta bothers from another lump we chat daily and we think so alike and I know if I say I need a beat for a video Tricksta will send exactly what I need in 5 mins and it will be spot on. “100% exclusive” is the third mixtape we have done with UKRunnings, we were chatting about how wannabies were copying what we were doing with theurbanshop/UKRunnings mixtapes and I was mad I hate it when people cant be original, anyway out the blue Tricksta went ok let’s do a mixtape and DVD and make every track on the mixtape EXCLUSIVE to TheUrbanShop, and that was it but I think Tricksta in an attempt to help me out and kick back, shot himself in the foot. 100% Exclusive came out, took abit longer than expected but Tricksta pulled out all the stops and made it and made it good, everybody in the industry stood up and said man you’re mad doing this as a freebie this should have been a UKRunnings album and sold, but Tricksta stuck to his word and made it 100% Exclusive and more importantly made it so that no other wannabie could copy the concept it was off the scale!!!
You have always done FREE delivery which is a big look. Is this just for UK customers?
Nope that’s worldwide and something we have done since 1999, others are starting to offer it now but usually if you spend over a certain amount we do it on every order.
Do you sell a lot of clothes to other countries?
Yeah at the min we do loads to Europe due to the exchange rate, places like Australia and New Zealand are also big we used to sponsor a Drum & Bass radio show in NZ a few years back, USA is always big strange they are willing to pay double for their clothing by buying from the UK but I think that they love their home brands and often have trouble getting them, Zoo York, Rogue Status and Diamond all sell back to the US in a big way and I suppose that leave Japan. When we first start Japan was a big market for us but they had a major economic downturn a bit like we are facing now, however Japan is out of it and we are starting to see major orders coming from there again.
Your blog and podcasts seem to be really taking off too, as well you doing a radio show for Hip-Hop Basement Radio. Where and when can people check for all that?
The blog is probably the main place to pick up al theUrbanShop gos check out TheUrbanShop Blog, we update it daily and are always on the look out for people interested in writing for it, we think the whole community feel is the vibe we are going for not some blog that just sells out site but informs people about what’s behind the brands, us what’s going on that may interest them. If you interested in the podcasts which change weekly check the forums we have rooms dedicated to graffiti/streetart, hip hop and the podcasts. We run this thread where we start with a track then people suggest tracks to follow on with some connection and then they are get complied into podcasts it works well and gets support form some of our core customers and friends. HHBRadio show is basically our podcast and goes out every Friday at 7pm vai HHBRadio.com.
Well all the best of look for 2009, before you go is there anybody you want to shout-out or anything you’d like to add?
I’d like to say thanks to The Urban Shop for taking time out of their busy daytime schedule to do this interview. Please visit www.TheUrbanShop.co.uk NOW and check out all the latest lines, as well as making the most of their current discounted SALE!!!
Interview by Brendan Deane