Formed in 2005, Stampede! on Camden Road is the leading children’s independent footwear retailer in the UK. MD Andrea Afrifa tells us about some current trends and bestsellers, and why they pride themselves on offering something different to fashionable youngsters in the town.
How did Stampede get started?
We’re in our 11th year of trading. We’ve been in the town centre since January, but were up on St John’s Road before. I saw a gap in the market in Tunbridge Wells and that there were some really decent brands that weren’t being sold in the southeast, and took it from there. My background wasn’t in shoes, but having three kids of my own made it quite an easy transition into the business.
Which ages do you specialise in?
We cater for shoes from birth to 15 or 16 years old, and our school shoes go up to adult sizes. School shoes are a necessity in the UK and high street brands don’t suit everybody, so I’m able to offer a point of differentiation from the high street.
How about some of your best sellers?
It’s depends on the season; at the moment we’re selling lots of winter boots and wellies like Hunter, as well as fun, cheap and cheerful wellies like Frozen. We’ve done a massive back to school rush, in August we get queues out of the door for people replacing school shoes, ready for September. We do all the leading-edge brands like Doc Martin, Converse and Vans, plus a lot of European boots that are unique to our business and made to order for Stampede!
Why make the move from St John’s to Camden Road?
It’s nice to be central so you’re near all the other shops and a few doors down from Simmonds, the big school uniform shop. Also, the car parking in St John’s is becoming more of an issue, so I wanted to be centrally based. We’ve worked hard for ten years to grow the business and get to this point, so thought it was the right time for the move.
Does Camden Road have a thriving retail scene?
There’s a lot of diversity on Camden Road and some great independent businesses, which give Tunbridge Wells its uniqueness.
As an independent, it’s nice to be able to offer something different and be part of a group of businesses that do that. People bring up families in Tunbridge Wells, so it’s ideal and a great place to do business for children.
Is there strong customer loyalty in the area?
Every time people come and shop here, we take an email address and they join our database. We’ve got a database of about 6,500 regular customers, who receive loyalty vouchers after spending so much, that’s quite a nice thing that brings people back.
Are parents conscious of what’s in fashion for their children?
There’s definitely a big market for kids to be on trend. More importantly, it’s about fitting shoes; we’re a fitting shoe shop, so we measure all the feet, we fit all the shoes, all our staff are certificated and we’re members of the Society of Shoe-fitters, so we’re definitely a step ahead of the high street in that respect. It’s a mix between shoe fitting and fashion, and we do specialist fittings for children with special needs as well.
Do you tend to sell more shoes for boys or girls?
Girls tend to have a lot more variety; boys will have a school shoe, a welly and a weekend shoe, whereas girls will have a party shoe, a weekend shoe, a trainer and a boot, so I’d say the split between girls and boys is probably about 65/35.
What’s your approach to the company?
I’ve always taken the business really seriously, run it in a very professional way and been very stringent with training and staff, making sure we’ve got unique selling points all the time with all the stock we do. We’ve introduced clothing as well now, for kids from birth up to 15, because I don’t think there’s very much out there apart from high street chains in Tunbridge Wells.
It’s about quality personal service and we sell everything at the recommended price. We’re very competitively priced and often come under in price in comparison to what the high street’s selling.
Finally, what trends have you seen in the market recently?
What I’ve noticed is that people are more interested, particularly with footwear, in buying quality. They’re happy to spend a bit of extra money, providing it’s going to last, rather than buying cheap and cheerful more often. That’s definitely a big trend I’ve seen, particularly with school shoes and boots, where they’d rather buy the more expensive quality than the cheaper end of the market.
6b Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells,
Kent TN1 2PT
01892 511 651