169 Brockley Road - what's in store?

The shop on the corner of Brockley Road and Cranfield Road, formerly an ill-fated therapy centre and junk shop (not at the same time), is shortly to reopen in a new guise as a children's shoe shop.

If you don't want kids shoes with flashing lights in the soles, your options in this part of London are severely limited, so this is a really interesting venture, which, by offering a specialist service, could draw customers from a wide catchment area.

We spoke to Helen, one of the new owners about their venture, which, like the rebirth of Toads Mouth, shows new levels of ambition for this stretch of Brockley's high street:


What will the shop be like?

Fitted shoes will be our main focus but we'll also be selling accessories from hats to hair clips, as well as a selection of toys and other children's things. Our aim is to create a space where children want to come as well as their parents and to make the whole shoe buying process a little easier for everyone. We'll be selling a full range of shoes from first walkers to school shoes and from a range of brands.

We may not get it right at first but our aim is to help everyone that comes in through the door to get the right pair of shoes if they need them, even if that means helping them to source from elsewhere.

We’ll be offering a loyalty scheme, an additional ‘by appointment’ service and most importantly, we’ll be making sure children enjoy the experience because let’s face it, if they like coming, life is happier for us all.

When do you hope to be ready open?

We're aiming for mid-May opening.

Why this location?

My business partner Alex and I both live in Brockley and have, like Brockley Central, seen the influx of young families into the area. We are one of those families ourselves. We’ve always thought there was a need for a children’s shop and when 169 Brockley Road came up, we knew it was almost too good to be true. It’s the perfect spot and is a building that was in dire need of a little TLC.

Is this your first business? 

This is our first venture together and will hopefully draw well on our backgrounds in advertising and design.  Most importantly, we’re parents ourselves and understand the nightmare that is the shoe shopping expedition. Our aim is to take the pain out of the process and we have a few tricks up our sleeves.

What changes are you making to the shop's layout? 

We love this shop. It is an amazing space with the most incredible windows. We’re on the ground floor and are really just giving it a new lease of life rather than changing much at all. The main area was divided into two spaces before which we have opened back up. Happily there is plenty of room for our stock and a giant wooden tepee, which we hope will keep the kids amused! There are some nostalgic touches for the parents too.

What types and brands of shoes will you stock?

We’re stocking first walking shoes to school shoes and everything in-between. Brands include Start-rite, Ricosta, Geox, Victoria Plimsoll, Crocs, Petasil, Bobux, Bo-bell, Biomechanics, Agatha, Garvalin and hopefully the list will keep growing.

Are there any other shops you consider an inspiration?

There are lots of amazing shops that get the shoe bit right in terms of range and professional fit. This should be a given of any independent shoe shop. But, in our experience as customers and in our research for our own shop, not many people do some of the other bits that well.

We have been hugely inspired by all of Brockley's entrepreneurs who have had the spirit and gumption to make things happen. It was Toby and the birth of Brockley Market that gave us the final nudge to take the leap.

What will your opening hours be?

Initially we’ll be open 10am until 5pm every day except Wednesdays and Sundays. We are open on those days for appointments though so if people call ahead then we are happy to open just for them. We hope this is useful particularly for those with large families who want the shop all to themselves. We’ll also be holding story time and sing-a-long sessions which we’ll publish times for once we are up and running.

86 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been walking past that shop for ages thinking it needs a new lease of life. As a local mum I'm even more excited to see it's going to be something I might actually step inside (I don't bet and I don't like fried chicken much).

Well done and I look forward to you opening.

Anonymous said...

Best of luck! I don't have kids and won't be using the store, but I hope others will - it's nice to see a new store of (hopefully) high quality. Hopefully this will lift the game for the string of shops along there...

Brockley Ian said...

This is excellent news, we often travel to Blackheath specifically for the kids shoe shop. This will be much more convenient.

Anonymous said...

I'll even buy shoes for my friends' kids to support this.

Anonymous said...

TK Maxx has a great range of kids shoes at very competitive prices, just in case anyone from 'the real world' is reading this.

welcome said...

Well done. We'll be visiting too as we also usually go to Blackheath or East Dulwich. A nice and needed addition to the area.

Sally said...

This sounds great and I wish it every success. I'll definitely be checking it out for my daughter's summer shoes.

TK Maxx is fine if you're willing to spend ages looking through everything on the off chance they've got something in your child's size but it's not somewhere anyone can rely on as a sole (so to speak) source of any footwear. (The kids' clothes are excellent though).

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Another empty shop brought back into use.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to them, but it's starting with a handicap in it's customer base - people with children - so it cuts down potential customers, and then that customer base is cut down even more to parents who will be able to afford the shops (predictably) higher than 'high street' costs and that's really something you don't need right now. It'll need a wide geographical catchment so then it'll be competing with shops in Blackheath and East Dulwich.

As I said, good luck, but the writing's on the wall before you even open . . .

Doh said...

Could this be the same anon predicting the failure of brockley market? For some the glass is half empty or half full.....of piss.

Good luck, you may fail, you may succeed. Children's shoe shops do survive and yes anon, obviously they are aimed at childrens parents. Specialisation rather than a generic offering has plenty of precedence.

Mondee said...

Sounds brilliant, can't wait. I generally go to Blackheath for my kids' shoes, but that shop is certainly over-busy at key times so it will be great to have another option. It sounds like it will be a much more pleasant environment - the Blackheath shop has possibly got a bit complacent because it hasn't had much competition until now, so the shop is looking pretty tired.

NAT said...

"Barefoot is fine, what's wrong with bare feet? I hardly ever get cut now, trouble with shoes is they soften the feet..They worry me..shoes...ever considered they might not work"

Anonymous said...

I'm sure when I were a lad you used to be able to get childrens shoes from the same place the adult ones came from. You know, Clarks etc... is that not still the case?

Anonymous said...

I would have thought that given the rate at which children grow, they would be in regular need of an upgrade to their footwear.

If the only competitors are way over in Blackheath and East Dulwich, that sounds Brockley is an ideal location. The number of young families in the area seems huge.

Often, no matter how much market research is done, the only way to find out if an idea works is to do it.

Mondee said...

Anon 12.50, yes, you can still go to Clarks in Lewisham or Charlton and I do on occasion, but there are only Clarks shoes there, so choice can be quite limited.

Pete said...

I'll certainly consider getting my son shoes in this new shop. Currently we get all of his shoes in Clarks in Lewisham on the grounds that most shops won't measure your child's feet and when they're only 2 years old getting the right size is really very important. Somewhere that specializes in children's footwear should do well.

If you think about it there aren't many (any?) specialist shoe shops in the area at the moment.

Tamsin said...

Isn't there also a children's shoe shop in Nunhead mentioned on SE Central or is this the one people refer to in Dulwich?

So obvious you are probably already planning it, when when you open and want to market to families locally I would suggest you provide the primary schools with flyers for the school bags. The Festival have found John Stainer and Edmund Waller willing to do this - provided you give them bundled into 30s. More printing - although you can cut the cost by having it done A6 - but more targetted than tree posters. And less printing than a door to door drop.

For printing - there's the new print shop in Mantle Road.

Brockley Nick said...

@1237 - normally I delete posts from people predicting a local business' failure, but since this one hasn't even opened yet and you have been roundly called out by other readers, I'll let it stay up as a tribute to brainless pessimism.

Practically every shop (other than a supermarket) is catering to one niche or another and this isn't a particularly narrow niche (anyone with kids) and serving a niche allows them to offer a higher-quality specialised service.

Children's shoes is a smart niche to target. The local options are limited (that place in Blackheath is very limited, especially for girls' shoes and busy) and buying kids shoes online is tricky, because their fit is always changing.

Good luck to them. Maybe it'll be a success, maybe it won't. No new business is guaranteed to be a success, but this is one of the niches that can compete with online and the big chains.

Brockley Nick said...

@Tamsin - that's the ED shop you're referring to.

Also, I think there's probably a difference between schools being willing to advertise a local arts festival and promoting local shops to kids for free. But there are lots of school raffles, etc, which businesses can make a donation to boost their profile.

Lady in the Well said...

TK Maxx doesn't provide a fitting service anon. Quite important with children's shoes I'd say.

I will definitely be visiting this shop. We usually go to Clarks in Lewisham but the choice is quite limited.

Great to see another empty shop filled. Wish it was in Ladywell instead of the chicken shops!

Lady in the Well said...

Too many doom mongers on this site!

JPM said...

Good luck to you both; I'll certainly try it.

@HighStreetBen said...

Great idea - specialist shops make High Streets, and bring new people to the area who otherwise wouldnt shop here.. and will likely call in 1-2 other shops too. Good luck to you. Have we got a name for the business - and how are you going to finish the shopfront and sign? Ben

Anonymous said...

Every post seems to stir the Brockley central resident troll into action with some provocative comment.

Sadly this troll seems to verge towards inane mutterings rather than any sharp observation.

Just like empty shops the lights are sometimes on but there is no-one at home.

Brockley can do better.

Teahound said...

Good luck to them! I hope they do really well. My kid is too grown up now, but I would have loved to have had a shop like this years ago. It would've been great to be able to pop round the corner instead of having to bus further away to have shoes fitted well. Like Pete says it's really very important. My mum grew up in a family that was too poor to be able to provide the kids with shoes that fitted properly. As a result all her toes are really mashed up. I didn't have much money when my kid was little but always spent on getting properly fitted shoes as I've seen the damage that can be done if you don't.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this end of Brockley is turning into a little village now, like Blackheath - hopefully we get some quality stores on Brockley Cross to lift the whole area up...

Ian on the Hill said...

Whoa there! Children have feet? Who knew? Live and learn.

Sally said...

One more thought: 5pm is rather early to close on a weekday if both parents work. Maybe buying shoes is not the first thing that springs to mind after work and school but there's a fair bit of passing trade that could be picked up on the accessories side if the hours were extended to 6pm.

Anonymous said...

... Or Sunday openings instead of another weekday? Sunday is the best day for shopping!

Anonymous said...

As a working person, it does annoy me when shops shut just when you're ready to use them. See the problem with banks, who seemingly only stay opened for the unemployed. Ditto, markets.

fabhat said...

This exactly the kind of shop that makes sense on the high street - as others have said you can't really buy children's shoes online as you need to get them measured. It will be great to shop locally, rather than going to ED, Blackheath or Lewisham. Looking forward to it opening...and making use of it.

BrockleyKate said...

Interesting. Not the most obvious thing to do with the space, but judging by the reaction on this thread it sounds as though there's a market for it. And it's already looking much nicer than it did. Knocking the interior through makes complete sense.

kolp said...

30+ comments in and there's no discussion of the potential name of the new store? What's going on???

Anonymous said...

It says Gently Elephant on the application ...

kolp said...

Hmmm "Gently Elephant" well at least it's not "Toad's Foot"!

Anonymous said...

Just drove past and wondered what it would be! It's looking good and can only be a huge positive for the area. Currently go to East Dulwich or Blackheath, so with 2 young girls we'll definately be spending our pennies there.
Pah, to the miseries on this site, what would you rather see there, a Cash Converters, betting shop, fast food?

Running Nutter said...

As a parent of a 5 and 9 yo girls I'm in the least shoe choice the better camp. Clarks works well on that basis. Just make sure to avoid the last sunday before the kids go back to school after a holiday.

That said i'm sure we'll be in to see what's on offer and wish those invloved the very best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Can I suggest the Brockley Badger as a name. Brock being an old english name for a badger from which Brockley got its name.

Anonymous said...

How about a name that doesn't include the word "Brockley", seeing as we already know where it is.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ the one man/woman pressure group fighting to have every new opening in Brockley being called Brockley Badger continues...

Anonymous said...

Mungo's???

THNick said...

12.37 - they're not just limiting themselves to people with children but only to those children with feet. Idiocy.

Sounds like a good idea to me, but unless they start stocking shoes with flashing soles*, I'll continue to go to East Dulwich.

*I may make an exception for shoes with dinosaurs on.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with trainers with flashing lights on them anyway?

mintness said...

I don't have kids, never will have kids and am just about clinging on to Brockley life as rents skyrocket while wages stagnate, but it's obvious to me that this is exactly the kind of venture the area needs. I'm surprised anyone thinks otherwise.

Saarf London Bird said...

New enterprise is always welcome and will be a continued boost for the area.

However, don't talk the bollocks about flashy lights on shoes. (a) some kids love them & (b) not all parents want to or can afford to spend loads of cash on kids shoes. I refuse to pay more than £20 as they trash them.

I rarely say this, but cut the pretentious bull in the opener. Brockley is a diverse area and long may it remain so.

I'll await the inevitable rebuttal.

Brockley Nick said...

I didn't say there was anything wrong with flashing lights. I was (I thought) making a little light-hearted remark about how every pair of kids shoes in local kids shoe shops has flashing lights in them. I like the ones without (that are often cheaper anyway). I was looking forward to MORE diversity, not LESS. I thought it was a humble comment about lack of choice, I didn't realise I had stumbled across another fault line in British class warfare. I would be surprised if this shop doesn't also sell those kinds of shoes.

Yes to faddy shoes. said...

Now come on SLB. One one hand you welcome it but then say its pretentious? It's a specialist shop selling kids shoes, some parents will want to spend the money and we don't know if it will be exclusively £20+ so may actually fit your arbitrary limit. Doubt it will crowd out the extensive children shoe options in the local.....ie none. You'll still be able to use the options a bit further afield. There are no downsides other than to the proprietors who are risking money on the venture, if it fails it harms no one but them.

Good luck etc.. (by the way I had Clark's Commandos, remember them? No well dressed 9yr old boy was without a pair plus a snorkel hooded parker in the late '70's)

Brockley Nick said...

And I was particularly thinking of the shoes you get in that Blackheath shoe shop, which is hardly cheap and I guess mostly frequented by the middle classes.

Hey ho. I learn about a new supposed dog whistle every day.

Wendy said...

There are a lot of touchy parents who've recently bought their kids a pair of shoes with flashing lights.

Tamsin said...

Worth at least asking the schools,though. Felt really bad taking down some of the ED shop's posters from the trees but they were laminated and for a business and so in two ways in breach of the very tentative arragement we have in place with the council.

Flip the coin - and you're not advertising a local business but informing hard-pressed parents of something that might make life easier for them.

The important thing is to make it as easy as possible - hence small size (A6)and already bundled into 30s for the separate forms.

Anonymous said...

You can't win Nick, you know that!

Saarf London Bird said...

Faddy Shoes - was remarking on Nick's opening remarks as pretentious.

Nick - interpretations.

Me - roots in working class. Head stuck up own arse.

TheOracle said...

"Foot Age" - da dah!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic!
Will also attend classes if they start soon. Brilliant news.

Oh and Clarks have bowed to the flashing light gene apparent in young children. one of their best sellers is black patent and errrr flashing!

The Cat Man said...

Whats the name of the shop going to be?

any suggestions :)

NAT said...

Did I read somewhere that badger is the Old English word for a childs shoe?

Tamsin said...

I wish there was a safe version of the x-ray machines that there used to be in the children's departments of shoe shops. Longed to have a look at my own feet through one but for some reason or other it never happened...

BTW - something my mother always complained about was how children's departmetns were always either up or downstairs so that you had a major struggle with a pushchair and one or two children. I once asked an attendant and it is a deliberate policy - to make escapes into the open street or the mall by one child while the parent is concentrating on the shoe fitting for another less likely.

Lady in the Well said...

Tamsin, I thought (and this is just made up in my head) it was deliberate policy because children NEED shoes as their feet grow so quickly where as adults just generally just want extra shoes for fashion reasons. People are more likely to make the effort to go downstairs if their kids need shoes. Then the shops can tempt passers by with fashiony ones at the front of the shop.

Anonymous said...

All Brockley Cross needs now is a restaurant. Fingers crossed for *something* opening where La Laterna used to be. The owner must be made of money...

foxbear said...

Sounds great... like Ian we often go to Blackheath specifically for children's shoes. I think it will do well, despite what many say. Loyalty card is a good idea, as is some stuff for bored siblings to do while others are being measured. Good luck with it.

Sue said...

My Mum never had much cash to splash around when we were kids but she made us all wear properly fitted lace-up Start-Rite/Clarks shoes until we was 16 - when most of my classmates were wearing far more fashionable pointy slip-ons! Still emotionally scarred by the experience AND I have weirdly misshapen feet anyway!

On a more serious note, it sounds like a great new business - good luck to them!

foxbear again said...

...actually reading the comments again, I don't think 'many' say it won't do well... just a couple of naysayers. Anyway, best of luck with it. The long, slow dawn of Brockley continues.

Robert said...

A children's shoe shop is perfect for Brockley. Some of my least favourite shopping moments have been on the search for suitable small footwear. I have probably worn out the equivalent of a pair of shoes myself in pursuit of those ends.

Shoes with wheels, shoes with lights, patent shoes, shoes with tassels & buckles, heels, flowers. Between us, my young daughters and I have shed many tears in shoe shops.

I wish the new owners of this business all the best of luck. We need you do succeed.

Anonymous said...

The shop sounds like a great idea for the area, as there are an increasing number of young families moving into the area. Brockley has so much potential to be as attractive a place to live as, say, Blackheath. It has some of the best, tree-lined roads filled with one glorious Victorian house after the other in South London, and some nice green spaces. The area really needs entrepreneurs with vision to invest in it and give it a high street befitting the wonderful properties and increasing young families.

Helen said...

Thanks so much for all your support. We will have a whole range of shoes. There will be some flashing ones for those that want them (lots of parents like them for safety in the winter when it gets dark), but plenty of others that don't. Most importantly we won't draw attention to them unless the parents seem keen! Good suggestion re flyers for school - thanks tamsin.

Helen said...

Thanks Sally. We'll definitely consider opening at least one day a week until 6pm. It's a great idea. And, it's definitely our intention a little further down the line to open 7 days a week.

Anonymous said...

Well done for taking the plunge! I agree it's going to be so much better for the street than another fried chicken place.
Good idea to do stories and singalong times too.
Best of luck and I hope local parents get behind what you are doing as it will make a big difference to Brockley if a highly visible premises like this succeeds.

Anonymous said...

A great idea. Look forward to them opening.

While I generally use high street (e.g. Clarks) I find that they are really limited on show sizes so end up having to trek elsewhere - having somewhere local would be great.

Anonymous said...

Can I have a bet there and buy some chicken?

emmajem said...

Excellent news - the kind of quality shop needed on Brockley road. Haven't yet had the privilege of shopping for shoes for my baby daughter yet but look forward to cutting my teeth with it at this place!

Anonymous said...

I had a decent dinner in Lion's tonight!

pip said...

Good luck to the new venture. I don't have kids but it does sound like a massive improvement on everything else that has been on that site in the last 10 years, and hopefully will help Brockley's "high street", such as it is.

To the doom-mongers: do cheer up and try not to appear so pathetic.

Fattyfattybumbum said...

Brilliant, no kids here either but good luck to them, nice to see something decent on that stretch.

andrew josheph said...

Here good idea to reopen your shop with some interesting things.children get everything which they want from your shop.there are many types of shoes and many other things for children which all are with good quality and brands.i like your idea.

Startrite

Anonymous said...

Excellent news, I find the service & range in clarks to be pretty poor and will be very happy to have a local alternative.

Hope it'll stock a good range of nice boys shoes, the toddler Clarks ones are ok but my son is now growing out of those and I don't like the more "trainer" types.

Anonymous said...

I agree late opening one evening would be useful and as a mother to two boys, a decent range of boys shoes would be good as there is often limited choice in Clarkes/Start Rite for boys. A loyalty scheme might work with some kind of discount after X pairs of shoes? If the schools won’t distribute your flyers you can always stand outside at finish time and leaflet drop the parents.

Good luck….I will definitely come in once you are open.

Cuppicake said...

sounds great - the one thing I DO spend money on is nice shoes for the kids. They last longer.

Can you please just have plain coloured plain everything leather shoes for both boys and girls. Please?

momanger said...

I won't spend over the odds. I like quality shoes but I need to have good value.

Cuppicake said...

well, that's why the world is so wonderful and interesting - it's full of people who do things differently to one another!

Anonymous said...

Cuppicake, I rather think you mean differently from each other. But maybe not (!)

All, this is clearly exactly what the area needs and is a great idea. I wonder if the owners have looked at the "Soup Dragon" on Lordship Lane for some ideas. It seems to do well and is a shop that my children love to go into (one of their stated aims).

Like SD, you could do music and dance sessions for little ones and I would also suggest haircuts. We have often paid 13.50 to 15 pounds for a few snips of children's hair taking ten mins max, so that seems like a high margin business.

Very best of luck and so glad to see these places opening.

Sally said...

Another idea for publicity -- take a stall at the Hilly Fields Fayre in June. I remember Geddes doing that when they started up a few years ago, it seems like a very good value way of getting to a few thousand Brockleyites. The chance to chat to the locals would be well worth the £20 for the stall & you could also have some small pieces to sell too.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great idea and I am very excited to take a look when the shop opens.

Can I just make a plea for some exciting boys shoes in bright colours please. As a mum of 3 young boys me and them are really bored of boring brown, dark blue and black shoes. Sports Direct have a good choice of colourful boys shoes but I really hate shopping there and would much rather spend my money in independent stores, particularly ones in Brockley.

Also I agree with others' comments on the opening times, as a working parent who works from home on Wednesdays it doesn't leave me much time to spend money in your store, but I do appreciate the appointment system and once I've recc'ed the shop will probably make use of that.

Tania

Anonymous said...

fantastic! I can't wait!!! I have three small children to shoe, it will be brilliant to have some real choice, with fitting too. There isn't any real choice for us a the moment, tk max just isn't fun with little kids, trawling through the shelves...but I like the sound of the tepee, bring on the fun!
The appointment system is genius by the way, I will be taking you up on that one. The very best of luck.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy that a shop will be opening up on my road, I opened my shoe shop in E D Warehouse 1 Zenoria Street SE22 8HP it's called Emmanuelle Marshall. I had dreamt of opening in that exact shop but fate took me somewhere else.
I spoke to Helen and Alex and they were such lovely women wishing them all the best.
You can find me on face book Emmanuelle Marshall and at the above address Tuesday to Fridays 10am-5.30pm Saturdays 10am-6pm Sundays 11am-5pm. Lots of shoes and a measuring service provided, I know everything about feet.
Lets support small businesses.
Many thanks
Emmanuelle

Brockley Dogging Society - Niche Entu said...

Barry, one of our newest members, also knows everything about feet. A bit specialist but it's an example of how broad a church we are.

Anonymous said...

Tania, what's wrong with Sports Direct? They do honest shoes...

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