Shop Profile Ace Clothing, Duncan Street, Leeds
We met Sue Newal, owner of Ace Clothing, which opened back in 1977, making it one of Leeds' oldest independent fashion stores
Shop Profile: Ace Clothing, Duncan Street, Leeds
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Ace has come a long way from it’s origins as X Clothing on Call Lane (before it was the trendy end of town) to the shop they currently occupy on Duncan Street, which is rapidly becoming notorious for vintage inspired shops.
Ace isn’t just any independent clothes shop. Unlike many other shops of their kind they have stood the test of time and have been trading since 1977, making them one of the longest standing independent shops in Leeds. So what is the secret to owner Sue Newal’s success? "We’ve always stuck at it and we’ve always reinvested in the business," she says. Evolution and moving with the times seem to play a big part in it too: "If we’d stuck with what we’d done in 1977 we wouldn’t still be here, you’ve got to keep changing, not a complete reinvention but you’ve got to move with your audience." It’s a formula which seems to have been effective thus far.
But Sue also mentions one of the downsides of being independent since the recession kicked in. "We’ve always looked for new and up and coming things," she says. "The bad thing about that is independents get the new labels, do all the legwork, all the promotion, get it out there and then the multiples jump on it. It used to be that no-one would sell to them because they’d lose their brand, but now, because of the recession, if the multiples want it, no-one’s going to turn them down."
The shop’s history is full of famous faces. Sue used to provide clothing for a number of bands including Madness and over the years a diverse range of musicians have passed though the doors of Ace, from Human League to East 17. Furthermore, Sue has known The Smiths from the very beginning of their career and was in attendance at their first gig. Johnny Marr even used to work in the shop himself.
Ace is still very much about supporting independent companies and bands. They’ve done a lot of work with Jumbo Records (a fellow long-standing indie) and they stock a lot of up and coming band merchandise from the likes of Sinstar Clothing and Art+Disco.
Sue feels that the Leeds shopping scene as a whole has improved in recent years, citing the Victoria Quarter as being partly responsible as it brings people to Leeds from all over the country. However, she does feel it’s a pity it doesn’t extend beyond that. "There isn’t an independent, enthusiastic scene or area in Leeds anymore and in the past there was," she says. "I think you need a core of small, interesting shops to make it into a business. People come to Leeds, they do the Victoria Quarter, they do Briggate and then they go home because they think that’s all there is, and I think that’s a bit of a shame."
As for the future of Ace Clothing, Sue will be sticking to her tried and tested methods: "We’ve always had the policy that the independent thing runs right the way through the business. We’ve always been out in the street, we’ve never wanted to be in a shopping centre. At one point we had five shops, you get to a point where if you get any bigger the only way you can do it is by getting other people in, managers and accountants. I don’t want to go down that route."
Ace looks set to continue standing tall despite the current economic climate. Here’s hoping more independent shops are able to follow suit.
Posted on Wednesday 11th January 2012
9-11 Duncan Street, Leeds, LS1 6DQ
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