“When we started up 15 years ago, it was randomly just plain words, I mean the Jack is to do with my name myself, but the apple means nothing, absolutely nothing, somebody said it and we kind of just stuck with it, so there was nothing meaning wise with it at all.”
- Jacqui Store Manager and Founder of ”Applejack” in Edinburgh.
I was super thrilled to get the occasion to meet up with the Applejack clan. A boutique store on the South Bridge, Edinburgh, which stands out from all the other stores around; a must visit whether or not you enjoy the alternative, punk, rock emo scene, you still can’t help but nip in to see the creativity and unique atmosphere the store conveys, from imaginative body jewellery to boots and skirt toots.
Applejack is a utopia for individuals who want to kit themselves out in the latest alternative swag and clobber. It is a must-stop-off point for people who are into their neon green leopard print skinny jeans, studded belts and Stargazer makeup; not forgetting the coloured high heels, boots and wide range of shoes.
Carrying various complementary brands such as: Eastpak, Iron Fist, Stargazer, Starfish, Criminal Damage, Abbey Dawn, Aku Mu Ink, Innovision, Wildcat, LowLife, TUK, Rock Daddy, Nightlife, NBX, Killer Panda, Heartless, Cupcake Cult, Newbreed, Lucky 13, Collectif, Nemesis Now, Hell Cat, Manic Panic and lots more. The store has been successfully running for over 15 years and now boasts a large and loyal customer base.
I had the fortunate chance of meeting with the brains and creativity behind this unique store to get the scoop on the alternative retail lifestyle.
How would you describe a typical day in Applejack?
A normal day…? Totally a different day, everyday, I’m not here everyday so we have different staff in all the time. We all have other commitments so everyday is different.
You have such a random mix of collections from Iron Fist to Abbey Dawn to Hell Cat – how many brands in total do you stock?
Oh I couldn’t tell you, we still have brands we have had from years ago, if I go to a trade show and they have something cool and funky there, I order it. We have two orders coming in which are along the same lines as Abbey Dawn and Iron Fists, that should be coming in next week. If we see something funky we get it in, if it compliments what we do, if it’s a little bit unique and kooky and different. We are really different, really big on prom dresses and 1950's dress. A few years ago we had a lot of them in, that has wound down a lot but we still do it, anything that is a bit different – we stock. With regards to suppliers there are loads – absolutely loads.
In terms of finding stock, do you go out and do research or do people approach you?
Both, I have been doing this about 15 to 16 years now. I started out on Coburn street and was there for 12 years, so I have been around these suppliers for many years, been to loads of trade shows, but they know you once you are in the business, then people approach you.
In regards to competitors, do you have any main competition?
Competition? We are unique, retail in general and fashion retailers are struggling because of the recession and not having any money, there we a couple of shops like Electric Cabaret that is gone and Star has gone. A lot of independent stores just don’t exist anymore.
There is Hoochie Coochie, I was just over there yesterday – really nice, a lovely wee shop. It’s more trendy and student trendy. We try and do something a little more different with rockers, students, emo chicks; just people that want to be different They are a bit more girly and mainstream. I don’t really see anyone as competition. I think there is enough for everyone. On this side of town there is only really Who’s Who on Colburn Street and Pie in the Sky who have just downsized and shut their main shop; they are a bit more vintage. So I don’t see much competition as we are all friends,we help each other out, suggest, promote and recommend one anothers shops.
What would you say the one thing that really stands out in your store?
Body Jewellery, which we never did before, we started doing it because many people were asking and doing more and more, bringing in lots of ranges. I think we might have the best range in Edinburgh, apart from stores like Claire’s Accessories which stock mass produced jewellery. Also our t-shirts as well.
Kind of like a little Camden town in Edinburgh?
Yes, kind of like a Camden with all their different stalls, we are just a little bit different and I think everyone was surprised with Camden when on their walks with all the different stocks ranges too. I just think there isn’t much left of this kind of stock. Obviously places like Primark have come along and taken a lot of the mainstream trend. So its quite hard but we get by.
Do you do any form of body piercings?
We do have tattoos downstairs. We used to do piercings when we first opened. Tails? did piercing, he was here with us when we first opened. He was only with us for a year and a half and sadly he passed away from a heart attack which was really awful. His name was Tails and he came with us when we moved to this shop. After he passed, a guy approached us from Thailand named Tom who took on the tattoos, he’s got a nice cosy booth down there.
Do you think you will start body piercing again?
Probably not because we would have to build a separate unit and the unit Tom has was already part of the building which worked, piercing used to be such a unique thing where now everyone is doing it.
What was it that made you want to start this business up?
I had no idea what I wanted to do, I never went to college or university and when left home I worked at the Bank of Scotland and it wasn’t for me. So I took a job at Colburn Street and I stayed there for a wee while, about 12 years, and learned a lot. As with most jobs, a lot of things go on and things happen, management changed. In time I got some money and at that point there was a shop up the road named Flip which was a vintage shop, which we rented at the bottom of the unit. My dad was saying here is money go and do it – you know put your money where your mouth is, and I just thought you know what? Life’s too short, lets give it a shot. We had some rough patches over the years but we got there. So I didn’t always want to do it, I kind of just fell into it. I didn’t have any other qualifications so what was I going to do, but I do really enjoy it.
You have really built your business up over the years, was it hard?
Well we had to because the other store Flip when bankrupt so we had to, it took about 8 months to get this shop we are in currently, to get the keys and make it all secure. So that was all a bit dramatic but once we moved in, it took a few years to get back on our feet. We’ve got there now.
Do you ever have any evening openings or event nights?
We are really well known throughout the Fringe Festival, so we stay open a bit later during that month.
Any words of advice for people wanting to embark into the independent retail world?
I’d say just do it. Don’t even think about it. Obviously you need to do market research, especially now. When I first started things were a lot easier, retail is tough, so you need to always be cautious. But by all means if you have a good idea, you’ve got to try. If you fail…dust yourself down and go and get a job, Edinburgh is lacking in small independents, Glasgow is quite good.
Do you think you might branch out?
We had a second shop before and it cost no ends of headaches. That was a few years ago now. I think for me, possibly not. It would involve a lot more work, at the moment I am quite happy. Nice little wee shop and it has a really good reputation. As well as the added stress and staff, at the moment here, I have really good staff. Really happy with the location and the little wee shop. Be sure to pop in to Applejacks when you are next down South Bridge. Such an adventurous shop with continuous changes of stock, new displays and fantastic promotions. Such a friendly bunch of staff as well, so you won’t just be leaving with an new item, but some new friends as well.
I went in for an interview and left with a super awesome Iron Fists Top and a nice bundle of goodies! I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and I’m now contemplating getting an epic tattoo! Be sure to check Applejack out for sure! I guarantee you won't be leaving empty handed!