Launching last November, TheSuperCool is a mobile design emporium, and online store, set up by husband and wife team ‘Noonie & Kate’. With a passion for the quirky, the vintage, and the offbeat – and a bloody good eye for all that to boot – the duo have been going from strength to strength as their transient pop-up has been doing the rounds around Melbourne.
Having just touched down with a semi-permanent (they have a 6 month lease that sees them through to February 2013) space at the South Melbourne Market’s SO:ME Space retail concept, the pair look set to continue their ascendency into retail-nirvana. We caught up with them to find out more…
Hi guys, can you give us the elevator pitch for TheSuperCool?
We’re a mobile emporium of everyday objects sourced from around the globe. We stock stationery, hipster homewares, prints & posters, design books & mags, kids stuff and vintage collectables.
Can you tell us a little about how you took TheSuperCool from a concept to a mobile emporium?
We were inspired by the vintage pedlars from the 1800s who used to take their wares from town to town… rather than setting up shop in one town. They would be nomadic, and it was an event when they visited the town – providing exotic delights for the locals. We felt the current state of retail was in such an interesting time – a revolutionary time where customers are apathetic, and a bit bored by the same old rules of retail where everything is open all the time… online shopping dominates for its ease and accessibility, and so we thought; we need to take the pop-up shop to the 2.0 version; where it just keeps on moving around.
So we felt that this theory would excite people, encourage them to shop with us as there is an expiry date on how long we are around, and we are servicing local neighbourhoods by going to the people rather than waiting for them to come to us.
Were there other stores/retailers you drew inspiration from when setting up TheSuperCool?
We love the mix of product in Merci, the visual merchandising in Anthropologie stores, the way Colette theme their shop’s product like online content, and Liberty’s with the way they have limited edition pieces in a true emporium feel. We’re equally inspired by visits to urban retail precincts in Berlin, Lisbon, Barcelona, Paris and New York on our honeymoon last year.
You’re Mr and Mrs, has this had any pitfalls so far?
Haha… the pros? It’s really great working togethor, sharing in the hunt for new product, you know you can totally rely on the other person and you’re in it together 200%. The cons… you can get really tired and exhausted from all the packing up and moving shops so frequently, and that puts pressure on your tolerance and patience, but the benefit of being married is that we know our limits and what annoys each other so we can get over it and move on…. perhaps not so easy if it was a business partner.
Why have you decided to go semi-permanent, and are you hoping to carry on after February 2013?
We wanted to have a space where we could experiment more with visual merchandising. Sometimes there is ‘down time’ in between our mobile locations, and customers were asking where could they find us… so it made sense to try out a semi-permanent space for 6 months in a location where there is a unique retail set up and it’s only 4 days a week (as the market is), so that means we can do other mobile shops alongside this. We may continue on in the same space after February 2013… it depends on how this 6 month lease goes… we are all about trying things… readjusting our strategy and reacting to what’s happening in an organic way.
What is SO:ME Space, and how does what you’re doing fit into their vision?
It’s a unique retail destination where the market supports emerging designers and small brands to try out retail in a low risk and like minded environment. It’s bizarre in some ways to be in a market where they sell dog food, fruit & vegetables, you can get your hair cut, there’s massage shops, there’s cafés etc… it’s a really unusual shopping space; but that very sense of ‘surprise’ works well, and the locals have really embraced it.
We offer limited edition, independent designers from around the world a platform to share their product with the local customers, and SO:ME Space is all about this. We change our stock regularly, we take pride in our visual merchandising and we enjoy hunting for new and unique product. So it’s really complimentary with their goals.
Are you going to continue mobile sales too?
Definitely. We are hoping to run one mobile shop per month (most months) alongside SO:ME Space as well as online. In this way, we are appealing to different customers needs who might have visited us in one of our shops, but can’t get to us again; so they can shop online, or they don’t come from South Melbourne area where the shop is, so they want to wait till we come to a location near them in the mobile shops… we are really excited about continuing our roadtrips! We also have some interesting collaborations with other great brands coming up which will push us in new directions and challenge the concept of mobile retail… watch this space!
Is traceability, and building relationships with the designers of the items you sell, important to you?
We stock a variety of established and unknown brands and we also make some product ourselves. As we only launched last November in our first shop, we are still working out what works and what doesn’t, but we feel we are gaining confidence in this area. We’re planning to expand more into making our own product down the track as well, as continuing to source new unusual product. There are some designers we work with who we’ve loved watching grow their business, and we feel we have helped them branch into new areas as a result. There are some brands (international) that we feel honoured to be stocking.
Do you have any favourites amongst the products that you stock?
Oohh tricky question… like asking which child is your favourite! To be honest I really love our vintage stuff; its really hard when you source something you love and then you realise you have to sell it… it’s hard not become attached. So I love it when we sell something vintage I’ve had my eye on to someone who really loves it!
What’s next for TheSuperCool?
Short term; getting a bit more settled into our new semi-permanent space, we’ve got a mobile shop in July at the Melbourne Design Market and then in August we have a mobile shop with a great restaurant… details to be announced online soon. We’re also looking at doing a pretty cool video presentation about how we physically change a space from start to finish, and starting to make more of our own product. Somewhere in there it would be nice to go on a buying trip/holiday…. we’ve been working pretty bloody hard since last September on this, so we’re due for one!