Not part of the vast collective of bland shops that inhabit so many of our high streets. Not the usual corporate collection which strives for each one to be exactly the same. Aberdeen to Plymouth regardless of the sensibilities of their area.
All 42 Rohan shops are different. Yes, they have some uniform distinguishing features. Some have a distinctive exterior black facade, if appropriate. They are part of their own area. Not dropped from a shop fitter’s lorry, that moves from one to the other. A Rohan shop revels in the fact that it is different.
Where did this come from?
The answer is found way back in the history of Rohan. The first Rohan shop was Long Preston opened in 1983. Situated in an unlikely location in a North Yorkshire village with a population of 680 residents in 2001 and alot of Rohanists passing the door on the way to the Lakes or a visit to the Yorkshire Dales. This shop was very different, defying retail trends and reveling in its individuality. Often visited by students of retail to try and work out why.
Easy, the shop was in the path of Rohanists travel with enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff. A trip to Rohan Long Preston was an experience. The illustrations below show the interior of Long Preston in 1983. No garments on display. The garments lived behind the electronic blinds. Very different. So the seeds were sewn.
It was important that the shops became part of their own community. Their contribution to their community was to bring Rohanists to their locations.
The next addition was Covent Garden. Securing a premium shop in the centre of London in 1984 was not easy, a very big step for the company, lots of sleepless nights all those years ago. It started a trend that many outdoor brands followed. Covent Garden is now the southern mecca of outdoor brand retail stores. The northern counter part being Ambleside or Keswick or both.
The Rohan Shop collective has developed over the subsequent 20 plus years, each one with its own strong individual character. The individual nature of certain shops have been talked about in previous posts.
The recent growth of the Rohan Shop community has come about because of Colin Fisher CEO of Rohan determination to locate the shops where they are actually needed.
In Colin’s own words
“I like all of our stores to be individual. That starts with the place. I don’t think that we have many customers for whom shopping is a recreational activity. Ideally, I would like us to be in the places where Rohan customers want to spend their time either visiting for cultural reasons (we do well in the cathedral cities) or for outdoor activities like the Lakes and Dunster. I have to recognise that we also have to be where people live so we are there as well. Next is the building. I like interesting buildings. It doesn’t make for an easy life for our retailers but I prefer us to be on two floors in a listed building than in a conventional retail box in a shopping centre. Then there is the effect of the people. I want our store managers, staff and partners to see the shop, the building and the town as theirs and to make it a unique experience as a result. I know we don’t achieve all these things – we are dragging a long location history behind us but it is where I want to be.”
Now would be a great time to share with us your thoughts on some questions we have been pondering:
Where should we be?
What should we offer in addition to Rohan clothing?
What should our retailers do for you that we don’t already?