Alice meets the entrepreneur behind the The Retail Revolution Store, championing small businesses in Fulham.

They came, they saw, they er went bankrupt… BHS, House of Fraser is following suit, who else will fall? Even Topshop, the bastion of high street consumerism, is struggling, so where does that leave the small business owner who wants to bring their own product to market? Stocked in a bricks and mortar establishment to boost the online presence that most resort to in the face of hiked rents, mounting business rates and sinking footfall?

That’s where The Retail Revolution Store comes in, started by Belgian entrepreneur Patrick Rombauts. This business owner saw a gap in the market to lease space in his premises to small brands hoping to gain a foothold on the high street, and in the process to try and re-galvanise that community spirit so presently lacking. Cue a destination space in the heart of Fulham (just a stone’s throw from Fulham Broadway tube), one of the busiest thoroughfares of London, replete with office workers and millennials looking for a little light refreshment and retail therapy.

It’s a new take on a sound concept, a rolling pop up turned permanent retail venue that rents space by the, rail or shelf to brands looking to improve their visibility (in an actual shop with actual changing rooms and real staff). It could well be the first of many, and an opportunity to reverse the recent retail carnage and the subsequent lack of independent brands that previously made the high street thrive.

Rombauts describes the store as a ‘communal space where the consumer finds different products from mainstream stores.’ There’s no doubt it’s a more unique, special and controlled offering, plus it has the benefit of changing all the time. Even though it started as a pop up, it is now a stable and continuous destination space where customers benefit from exactly the same statutory rights as buying online. I should know, having tried and tested the space for various online ventures. It’s all about touching and feeling, trying on, and of course for the customer satisfying the desire to walk out with their purchase rather than waiting for it in the post.

Rombauts himself was in retail, managing a high performing Joseph store for many years before segwaying into design and construction after a friend asked for his help on a building project in Chelsea. ‘They had big problems with their contractor and they said why don’t you start a company?– you’re good at this.’ This ‘accidental business’ lay the foundations for this retail revolution, after Rombauts teamed up with Kate Cledwyn, a ridiculously talented textiles designer and artist. The space, a high end venue of Rombauts own design and creation, originally rented for exhibitions and cocktail parties soon became a rolling pop up under Cledwyn’s expert tutelage. Now there’s a cafe attached and all manner of exciting evening events alongside.

Rombauts’ dream is to steer a company that is eco-friendly; ‘The more brands we have that are sustainable and contribute to the wellness of the planet, the happier I would be’, he states. He is also committed to creating a ‘mutually beneficial business,’ where brands support and promote one another and in so doing hike turnover for all involved.

A behind-the-scenes landlord Rombauts is not, he is rather an efficient hands-on mentor and father figure. ‘Re-using and returning products that would otherwise be binned,’ is one of his passions, The Nearly New Cashmere Boutique being a perfect example, a retailer that sources second hand cashmere, de-bobbling, washing and revitalising it before selling it at a fraction of the price of new comparable brands. Alongside sit children’s clothes company Cocoon Child, Jam Boutique and Seatons Gifts (particularly handy for the man you never know what to buy for). Shakhti Shanti yoga wear is currently in stock too, alongside the fabulous Mu Du Hats brand (particularly suitable for Ascot). There’s even art, Sweetart, a genius concept by graphic designer Simon Dry who creates iconic images of much loved sweets from used wrappers, perfect for British nostalgia lovers the world over.

Myriad quirky jewellery brands have joined the fashion and homewares and don’t miss the brilliant Apsley Bags, a paradigm shifting handbag for women. ‘The clients come on the back of there being a sufficient variety of products,’ Rombauts says, ‘it’s important to get that together as quickly as possible.’ See the website for a full list of current retailers.

All in all it makes for a significantly more vibrant atmosphere than the current staid confines of large department stores, which makes this entrepreneur well placed to offer advice to those starting out. ‘Never be tired, never be sick and work hard!’ he laughs. ‘And be there six days a week’. Indeed he’s a business owner who relishes the inherent pitfalls of day to day running. ‘It’s a challenge in a good way, of your organisational skills which is something I quite enjoy. I think how do I deal with this? That’s another good tip for people who want to run their own business; you always have to be positive, and think how can I fix this?’

The most rewarding part of the enterprise has been the people, ‘they really gel to make it work,’ he smiles, ‘it’s invaluable that they feel supported, which is the best feeling you can have, especially if the relationship is as good at the end as when you started.’

His ethos is all about giving to others, testament to his charismatic nature. ‘How many very successful people end up killing themselves,’ he ruminates. ‘With all the money and success in the world there is something deeply wrong with our society. True happiness is in the little things, that’s my philosophy.’ Which is why The Retail Revolution Store is all about the detail, small business owners, you heard it here first.

To enquire about retail space simply email:

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May 2019

Alice Kahrmann