Micah and Ange – tell us a little about you both and how you came to establish Uptown Local.
We moved to Coffs Harbour together in 2003, from Sydney. One of us was coming home, and the other was entering a new world. Combined, we had a commerce degree, a visual arts degree, retail experience, bookkeeping knowledge, stock management skills, some big ideas and lots of energy. We were here to take on the “family” business (Encounters) and had relatively no idea as to what we were undertaking. We were moving from the big city to a small community, with a niche business and knew next to nobody. We did, however, have the enthusiasm of youth on our side, support from Ange’s family and a little common sense – and so began our journey …
Uptown Local, to be specific, had been in the making for a long time before it became a “bricks and mortar” store. It was more of an ideology, a reflection of what was happening in fashion, food and music culture, and we took some inspiration from New York. Driven by the simple concepts of quality, upmarket, local, organic, shop small and slow fashion … We then took this ideology to launch an online store – a subsidiary to Encounters.
Although the online store was to sell the product of Encounters, we developed a logo for Uptown Local and viewed it as its own entity. We were excited to be creative and establishing a brand of our own. What we didn’t realise was just how perfect a fit this brand would be for our retail space in Coffs Central.
You have owned other retail stores in Coffs. What appealed about opening a store in Coffs Central?
We could see that Coffs Central was going to revitalise the town centre in a positive way. We felt compelled to get involved and play our part in contributing to the future of the city. We were excited to move into a boutique, strip style shopping area. The centre has gathered local, quality businesses together and provided us with an upmarket village in the heart of the Coffs Coast, similar to some great spaces we’ve visited in our travels. It also gave us an opportunity to bring our new ideas to life, challenge us and grow in an organic way.
What are your suggestions for maintaining and achieving customer loyalty?
We didn’t know many people when we first moved to Coffs Harbour. And in fact, barely knew what we were doing – truth be told! But we were young and our attitude was to have fun, with our customers and our team.
We have lived in Coffs Harbour for a few years now and have built a strong customer loyalty over this time. But first and foremost, we genuinely care about people and enjoy the social element our store offers. We have always believed in basic common courtesy, in treating each person with importance and respect.
Bringing the right product mix and desirable product is important. Online retail is huge competition, but we want to provide a fun, sensory and personalised in store experience – something that an online shop just can’t replicate … not yet anyway!
Is a steady presence on social media important to your business?
Yes, it’s huge, and we have a lot of fun with it too. It’s an instant and direct way for us to communicate with people who want to follow us anywhere in the world.
Apart from letting people know when a new range has arrived in store, we can share candid moments about us, our team and our travels. That helps us shape the vision and culture of Uptown Local. We’re on the main platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, which we can have a little fun with.
What have you found to be the most effective ways to promote the store?
Social media has singlehandedly been a major influence on our store profile and awareness. It can instantly reach consumers, anywhere, and to tell your story visually – and in real-time with platforms like snap chat. You can directly link social media to sales, in store or online; it’s an amazing tool for any business to use.
We also believe that our down to earth and kind ethos when it comes to customer service has supported our growth through word of mouth and repeat clients. There’s nothing better than a good recommendation to friends and peers.
As they say, location is everything, and by design our store is in the middle of the main street of town with a highly visible presence to literally anyone visiting the centre.
Uptown Local has not long celebrated its third birthday. What key lessons have you learnt over the past few years?
There are a few key lessons that we live by:
Never stop learning … be true to your vision … keep creating. Sometimes this is harder to do than you think, but it’s important to be focused but adaptable.
Work smarter, not harder – we can’t do everything all the time (yes, we’ve tried).
Balance is key – we make sure we take some time out. It’s too easy in small business to be in a constant state of work mode.
Investing in our staff – we strive to provide a platform for our team to flourish, learn new skills and harness their talents. They need to be motivated and have things to look forward to.
What trends are you excited about for 2017?
In fashion, you buy six months in advance for seasons, so we have completed all our Autumn/Winter 2017 buying already. We’re excited by:
‘80s inspired fabrics – with satin, velvet and lace highlights.
Glamorous and feminine – jumpsuits, shoulder cut-outs and off the shoulder pieces are still proving strong.
Linen luxe – we’re still loving the resurgence of linen and relaxed looks – which is a perfect style for living in a coastal environment.
Standout Men’s blazers – from textural blazers, to denim Sherpa jackets, there are some great looks for men to achieve.
Denim – relaxed fits and white denim will feature – which will be a fresh look, for both men and women.
Slow Fashion – quality over quantity is still a growing trend.
When you’re not in the store or working on the business, what do you enjoy doing?
We enjoy eating out, socialising and travel – we have some great local cafés and restaurants in the area – with local, organic, high quality fare. These moments are made even better when sharing them with friends, which we manage to do a lot of … or maybe a little too much!
There is so much natural beauty surrounding us on the Coffs Coast – we love the beach culture that Coffs offers. We’re also looking forward to the revamp of the Jetty marina, so we can get back to doing more of this.
Our work and life is social, so we also really enjoy being solitary at home sometimes – reading a good book or just relaxing on the balcony with a spritz. We recently took a holiday to the Greek Islands, so naturally we’re trying to turn our balcony into a little slice of Santorini – not quite the same, but we won’t stop trying.
Thanks Micah and Ange.