HIGH-STREET FAVORITES: MAIDEN
Maiden, (most will know the two shops as ‘The Gift Box’ and ‘The Play Box’) in Shoreditch, isn’t afraid of using bright colours to compliment their eclectic mix of products. They also know the importance of being able to adapt in order to stay relevant to their customers, and this year they’re celebrating 10 years on the High Street. I was really keen to catch up with Noah Crutchfield and find out more…
Thanks for agreeing to chat with me, Noah! So, Maiden turns 10 years old this year... congratulations on that! What made you want to set up your shop; did you always want to run your own store?
Yes! Starting a new retail business was always something I wanted to do once I built up enough experience and courage . Previous to MAIDEN I had managed the shops at the Royal Academy, then the Design Museum, and finally the Southbank Centre. So, by 2009, I felt I was ready to take the plunge.
How would you best describe your two shops at BoxPark, Shoreditch to someone that hasn't heard of you before?
Like non-identical twins! Each store has its own personality and vibe but they are very much related to each other. THE GIFT BOX is more subtle, more kitsch, and is more targeted towards design-led creative gifting and lifestyle products. THE PLAY BOX is more brash, in your face, cheekier, a bit more retro; It's a very playful yet carefully considered take on fun and fresh gifts that have humour and energy.
You decided to close your original location back in 2017 and focus on the BoxPark locations, was this a difficult decision to make?
Well, we had known right from the start that the building MAIDEN was in was due a major redevelopment within 5 years. Our lovely landlord, Rachel, was completely amazing and transparent with us about the time-frames. THE GIFT BOX was originally just meant to be a two month Christmas pop-up in 2014, but it was so successful that we stayed on there and then opened The PLAY BOX just over a year later in early 2016. Our original Shoreditch High Street shop is now part of an exciting new creative hub called FOUNT SHOREDITCH, which is Rachel's long-cherished project for the building and we are delighted to see our former home flourishing and wish them all the best!
How has Maiden developed over the years? Has the vision remained the same or do the shops continue to evolve?
I think I began with a vision that was much more offbeat and concept driven than we are now. We spent our first years creating fab and fun pop-up events for things like the Royal Wedding, The Jubilee and the Olympics. These events got us loads of press and put us on the map, but since moving to Boxpark our footfall has increased enormously, so we need to focus on a product mix which is more mainstream as that fits the Boxpark customer profile best.
What's your favourite thing in your shops?
OUR WONDERFUL CUSTOMERS! But in terms of product the giant Miffy light has been a best seller for nearly a decade now. It's a classic!
What's been the biggest challenge for you over the years?
To offer a fabulous shopping experience to all our customers. Because Shoreditch is such a trend driven location we have to ensure we keep the shops looking refreshed and energised. Our fabulous product ranges and fun colourful shop interiors are what keeps our customer happy. excited and coming back for more.
What's your favourite thing about running your own business?
Being able to take my dog, Barney, to work!
You found Ohh Deer early on in our journey and have remained loyal to us ever since. What attracts you to our products?
Ohh Deer has so many wonderful illustrators and artists creating lovely products that really stand out. Customers just love our Ohh Deer cards, prints and merch!
Are you still as hands on with your business as you were when you originally started or have you branched out into other ventures?
Yes, I still work on the shop floor three days a week (seven at Christmas!) . I simply must have regular interaction with our customers on the shop floors to ensure we are constantly evolving our product offer to keep wowing them and coming back for more. That said, I am planning to launch a new and different creative venture at some point in 2020. I'll keep you guys posted!
Have you ever struggled to balance work with your personal life? What advice would you give to someone that might struggle finding the balance?
Building your own business is not easy and will take a huge amount of time, energy and effort, but it is ultimately one of the most exciting and rewarding things you can choose to do!
While many other retailers seem to be struggling on the High Street at the moment, how do you believe retailers can help in keeping it alive?
The high street can and must be saved, but it needs an urgent and major rethink. Many of the big high street retail brands must radically re-imagine themselves if they are to survive. Rents are far too high and many big brands are stuck in massive store spaces that are becoming less relevant to customers needs.
Moreover, most of the big guns on the high street failed to respond and adapt quickly enough to the revolutionary impact that the internet, mobile tech and social media has had on our shopping habits. UK Consumers now have so much choice about where and how to shop that many of the cornerstones of the UK High Street are starting to look tired and a bit old hat; they simply do not appeal to the millennial and Gen Z shopper.
As we approach 2020, the UK "high street" is well overdue a major re-think and re-model. A destination like Boxpark is a shining example of such a daring and disruptive retail vision which will breathe new life into the high street.