Weird Fish was born with a simple mission and that was to produce well priced, well made and distinctive clothes that became instant feel-good favourites. Here, RLI sits down with Managing Director John Stockton to learn about how the brand has grown, what makes it so distinctive and what the future holds.
The story of this business began in 1993 and 27 years later the company is proud to still have the same founding values at its core, as this is what makes them Weird Fish. Customers choose this brand because it offers something different from the norm, a sense of fun, an eye for practicality and style and quality in abundance.
The company thrives on that Friday feeling. Whether that involves unwinding by the coast, walking your dogs, or just catching up with friends at the local,Weird Fish feels that the weekend gives people the time to unwind and be themselves.They believe that everyday should be full of the freedom and the fun that the weekend offers.
A multi-channel retailer, Weird Fish today operates 19 branded stores, its product is stocked in 250 UK stores and 300 in Europe and it has a growing online business.
“We have spent the past 12 months building brand awareness and putting our key qualities at the forefront of all our messaging,” explains Weird Fish Managing Director John Stockton. “We have also been focusing on building increased sustainability into everything we do, through the introduction of partnerships with green and ethical factories, increased use of sustainable fabrics and our roll-out of eco- friendly grass paper bags, packaging and labelling materials.”
Given the change in market conditions since the coronavirus outbreak, the priorities for the brand over the next 12 months are to continue working closely with its long-standing and new suppliers and focusing on continued development of its e-commerce platform. Stockton feels that strong partnerships and agile working will be key and within the business the continued evolution of IT and communication systems will be a priority.
“Internally, we have taken the necessary precautions to ensure health and safety comes first. Whilst all our stores and wholesale stockists remain closed, our online business continues to operate and our distribution centre is operating with responsible social distancing measures in place,” Stockton explains.
Before the outbreak hit the UK,Weird Fish opened its 19th store, an outlet store in Gloucester Quays which launched in December.The site is close to itsTewkesbury headquarters and offers a good place to test merchandising and marketing ideas. Before this in Q3, they opened their first franchise store in Keswick in the Lake District with retail partners ‘Edge of the World’. This has been an exciting departure for the company and Stockton feels it may signpost the way to future retail development.
As part of its sustainability drive, ‘The Only Way is Ethics’, there is a lot of focus on innovation around using eco-friendly materials in partnership with suppliers and designers. They are also in the process of launching their re-imagined classic Macaroni sweatshirts using a blend of recycled PET and organic cotton. Meanwhile in May, they will launch ‘Active Life’, a new lifestyle range which incorporates sustainable bamboo fabrics with relaxed ‘slow spun’ Weird Fish styling and quality.
It is by incorporating these new products, and re- imagining old classics that the company stays at the cutting edge of its niche market.
With its online business growing, social media has become a key part in decision making when it comes to business operations. “Our social feeds provide an honest platform for people to give us their feedback, so we took to Facebook,Twitter and Instagram to gauge thoughts from customers on continuing our e-commerce operations over the past weeks. Feedback predominantly showed a desire from customers for us to continue marketing online, as people are still keen to have a great shopping experience whilst in lockdown and staying safe at home.” Stockton believes e-commerce and online activities will
continue playing a huge part in driving the business forward in the wake of the outbreak, and they are relying on these channels to communicate effectively with its customers, and they have invested a lot in their website and social platforms as a result.
So what does he consider to be the key drivers behind the success of the brand to date?
“Our success lies in our ability to be different and distinctive. The fun element of our brand really resonates with our customers – we often use puns and phrases to give a light- hear ted spin to our messaging, such as our ‘Carp Side Of The Moon’ or ‘Hake News’ themed artist t-shirt ranges.We have also been consistent in offering our customers good quality, long-lasting products with an element of fun, so they trust us to continue delivering the clothing they know and love.”
The biggest challenge facing the company, according to Stockton is uncertainty, as nobody knows what the new normal will look like.
“The best advice I can give is to be prepared for the new normal and be as flexible as possible. It’s difficult to plan ahead but being open to new practices and adapting to an ever-changing industry is key.”