size? Carnaby Street Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

size? Carnaby Street – Grand Reopening – Interview With Paul Ruffles


size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

Founded back in 2000, SIZE? has become a premier destination, supplying the UK, Ireland and the rest of the world with an incredible selection of footwear, apparel and accessories. The SIZE? – CARNABY STREET flagship store had its grand reopening last week, after a major refit and expansion. The newly-invigorated retail space is beyond impressive: there’s lots more space, with an uplifting ambiance to the shop floor and lighting and display fixtures that compliment the product range. For an interesting and stress-free shopping experience, we think it’s a hard act to follow.

To celebrate the relaunch and get a closer look at what goes on behind the scenes, we took some time to speak with PAUL RUFFLES, managing director of SIZE? and FOOTPATROL and a well-respected aficionado of footwear. Let’s dig in!

size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

TDD: Thanks for taking the time to sit with us today. To kick off with, let’s find out a bit about your own personal journey to becoming MD of one of the UK’s favourite retailers.

Paul: I’ve worked with JD for twenty-plus years now: I was worked as weekend staff for two or three years while I was at college, before becoming weekend supervisor. I ended up becoming more known for the visual merchandising of the store – it wasn’t a set plan, it was just something that I gravitated towards. My role changed every three years or so, so there was no chance to stagnate or get bored.

You’re also the MD of another well-loved institution, FootPatrol. Is there a noticeable difference in the consumer base or buying habits between the two retailers?

I think there’s a good amount of crossover between the different stores, because they’re totally different environments. When we resurrected FootPatrol, I was very conscious of the what the shop had been like before and I wanted to retain all the good stuff around that. We didn’t want to just come in and change it to something else. There was a lot of doubt about what we were going to do.

Having been involved on the first incarnation of FootPatrol, specifically the website, I’ll definitely say that people were sceptical about bringing it back! But you did it – and you did it amazingly well. Not many people could have pulled that off successfully…

I think that’s the thing about having worked on the shop floor over the years but also still being passionate about the products. You build an affinity. I know what excited me in the shop back then, which makes it easier to retain that for a new audience.

Do you find yourself becoming a bit numb to products, because you’re around them all the time?

The passion is still there, but because there’s more stuff than ever before and everything’s faster, you do get swept along with it sometimes – it can feel like you’re bombarded with things. With this new size? space, we wanted to create more space to experience the product. With the previous iteration of the shop, it wasn’t always a great experience, especially when it was really busy because it was just so rammed! We haven’t put a lot more product in this new space – we’ve just given it room to breathe so that it’s a much better experience for everyone.

size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

How do you plan such an impressive refit like this? With size? being such a staple part of Soho, it’s interesting to see how well you’ve reinvented it without disrupting the brand feel.

We knew there was a need to fix the issues of the old store: I’ve been there enough times when it was busy to understand that it was painful sometimes seeing the struggle in the shop. It’s not what I wanted for the staff or the customer. We had the opportunity to expand into the unit next door, so we started thinking about it then. We looked at what worked in the original space – what was part of our DNA – and what we wanted to do away with. We’ve added a chute so that rather than waiting for the lift to bring your shoes down, they come straight down the chute and they’re there. We’ve considered the customer’s journey from the moment they step through the door. The old space had such a small door that it was painful when it was really busy – straight away, we wanted to make that area bigger.

The new space looks ‘size?’. It feels like a physical continuation of your website – there’s a very nice feeling of familiarity, but it’s new and exciting as well. Is the website ever a consideration when you develop retail spaces?

It’s a conscious decision to make it feel seamless. If you go to the site, you’ll see a brand in a specific area and that’s reflected in how we’ve set the store out too. Upstairs, rather than it being a trading floor, it’s now a returns and Click & Collect area. If it’s busy, you can bypass the customers on the shop floor: you can go straight upstairs, get your shoes and go.

size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

The new space feels curated: you’ve got little pockets and zones of different things and the branding and visual language is bold but unobtrusive. There are all these elements and clever things going on that you don’t really notice until you stop and look around: the lighting and the LCD screens are warm and subtle, rather than overbearing.

I was very conscious of the screens dominating the area. I wanted them to look more like pictures that change, rather than TVs. We get bombarded with so many things these days – I wanted the screens to feel like part of the space, rather than smashed in your face!

size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

size? has expanded successfully into Europe. How has that transition been, taking a UK brand into a new territory? Does the UK heritage and consumer understanding dictate what goes on in other countries? Or is it more tailored to different markets?

It changes the further up the pyramid you go: at the top, with something like FootPatrol, you’ve got a global demand: what’s hot there is going to be similar in various countries. size? would be similar: we do tweak it slightly for different locations, but we tend to stick to what we think is right. Even if you go to a different shop, things will be quite similar – and it seems to be working quite well.

In terms of collaborations, size? has become one of the biggest in the scene, with an incredibly strong record of creating interesting and highly-respected projects, with a wide range of brands. Have you got anything major on the horizon?

All I can say right now, is that there’s something big in the works for next year!

We’ll keep watching and reporting! Thanks Paul.

The SIZE? – CARNABY STREET flagship store can be found at 32-34 CARNABY STREET, LONDON W1F 7DW. If you can’t make it down to the shop yet, you can see the full range of trainers, clothing and accessories on their website by clicking the banner below.

Trainers, clothing and accessories at size?

size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

size? Carnaby Street - Grand Reopening - Interview With Paul Ruffles

Trainers, clothing and accessories at size?

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