WWB meets Lisa Barlow Weber, owner of London’s first female only sneaker store KicksLove to find out the story behind this uber cool retail space.
What is your background?
My background is heavily founded in the footwear industry. I worked at Foot Locker for six years, Size? for two and Nike Head Office in the UK for six years. I have a BA hons in Business and a Masters in International Management and completed my dissertation on whether Nike will remain the athletic industry leader. I am also a sneakerhead and have been collecting sneakers since the age of 16.
What prompted you to launch Kickslove?
Whilst working at Nike I realised there was a gap in the London market for a female only sneakerhead store, so I saw this as an opportunity to provide something very unique in the city, but being able to put my degrees to use and also creating sneakers by working with brands.
Which brands do you stock?
I stock Converse, Adidas, Reebok, Puma, Karhu, Fila, Saucony, Good News, Le Coq Sportif, Stance and Dr Martens – I’d say Dr Marten collabs and Puma have been selling well recently.
Why did you decide on a female-only store?
There wasn’t a store for female sneaker collectors or female sneaker enthusiasts in London, whereas there are quite a few across Europe.
What is the ethos and general vibe of your store?
The ethos is to provide a comfortable, friendly retail space that offers brand collaborations, limited editions and exclusive sneakers for the female consumer. The vibe is relaxed and fun – we have sofas to chill on, a sneaker library to read up on sneaker culture, and our floor is designed by world famous graffiti artist INSA, so there’s artwork to look at also.
How is that reflected in your online store / web presence?
Our online presence is not as good as the store currently, as this is a new area for us, but it is growing organically and is a big focus for us next year. I try to emanate some of my enthusiasm, product knowledge and in-store experience in whichever way I can online. For instance, wherever I can I try to add blurb as to why I’ve bought a particular style or talk about the collab or history of a sneaker, which hopefully adds a little bit of personality.
What sort of customer base do you attract?
Currently we attract all types of consumers that consist of females between 18-35; students, young professionals and of course sneakerheads.
Is it a benefit or a challenge to sell just one category of product?
No I don’t think it’s a challenge. It shows we’re specialists in what we do and we care about the knowledge that comes with selling to a female only audience.
Sneakers are having a bit of a moment currently – do you see this lasting and developing further?
There’s a number of reasons why female sneakers are more popular now than ever, the main one being the feminist movement where women feel more comfortable to express their style away from traditional fashion or dress codes. So more and more women are not wearing shoes or heels as they feel more comfortable in sneakers. The other key driver is brand collaborations with the likes of Puma working with Rhianna, Nike working with Lil Simz/ FKA twigs, this also has an influence of female style and choices of footwear.
Your store recently celebrated its first anniversary – how do you feel about one year in retail and running your own store?
It honestly has been the most rewarding year for me. I love interacting with the customers and telling them my story and really buy into the idea and also hearing on the spot feedback of why people love the store and product offering. We have received so much love and support from some brands and PR also, which was just a massive contributor to our success.
What have been the biggest milestones in this year?
Being asked to collab with a sneaker brand and create our very own sneaker – though I can’t say who at this point!
What has been the biggest challenge in terms of retailing over the past year?
The biggest challenge is the government business rates, and the terms offered to new independent retailers by big brands – they are not favourable at all. And brand marketing has been a challenge. Getting the KICKSLOVE name out there on a small budget is a hard feat – word of mouth marketing has been great to combat this challenge.
You’ve recently won the PRS for Music Makeover competition because of your vision to merge music with sneakers and fashion. Why is this element so important to you?
Throughout history sneakers and music go hand in hand as forms of art – Deptford is a very creative place, so I wanted to keep true to this in ensuring going into the future I can offer the consumer not only a place to shop for cool kicks, but an event space for young talent.
What are your plans in terms of the store?
Currently I just want to focus on getting Kickslove completely right and growing the awareness of the store and hosting more female sneakerhead events next year that engage the community. We intend to stay true to the category of offering female only sneakers, collabs etc.
Finally, what’s your favourite sneaker style or brand?
My favourite brand is Nike and my favourite style of sneaker is the Air Max 1.