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Upscale success in lockdown for NTU Alumni

No festivals. No trade. No bother for local business Relic Vintage, who had the unenviable task of upgrading their facilities during a global pandemic. Owners Conner Turner and Martha Hills tell their story of success, missing Glastonbury and their plan to take over the UK.

The front of the Relic Vintage store in the Victoria Centre
The exterior of the Relic Vintage store in the Victoria Centre

Established in 2018, Relic Vintage has come a long way in 2 years. Martha started the business while studying Fashion Marketing and Branding at NTU.

Soon after opening their first store in the West End Arcade, the business moved into the Intu Victoria Centre in September 2019.

Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity, the company was on the move again early this year.

‘We have now moved to a much larger prominent unit in the Victoria Centre,’ Conner explained. ‘We also have online sales channels such as Depop and are in the process of launching our own website.’

This latest move was a collaborative venture with Hooked, who specialise in trainers and street-wear.

Clothes from the Relic Vintage collection
A selection of clothes on sale at Relic Vintage

Pandemic Problems

Moving premises for the 3rd time in as many years represents its own challenges. Throw in a world-wide crisis and you could be well excused for putting even the best made plans on hold. Not so for Relic Vintage, who pressed ahead with their upscaling.

‘Our business came to a bit of halt during the pandemic,’ Conner conceded. ‘As we trade primarily from our Vic Centre store – in line with Government guidelines, the centre had closed which meant all trade ceased for us.’

Similarly, it wasn’t just hundreds of thousands of music lovers and Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift et al due to attend and perform during this year’s festival season that were left disappointed.  ‘We trade at festivals and a wide range of smaller pop-up events at student unions. The festivals we were due to trade at (Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds etc) were all cancelled.’

Risk and Reward

In light of the Corona complications, there was at least one positive. ‘It gave us time to move into a bigger store and complete a shop fit with more time and accessibility,’ noted Conner. ‘Moving into a bigger store over the pandemic was financially risky, but one we feel is already worthwhile.’

Sympathetic to the plight of many high-street casualties as a result of the crisis, Conner acknowledged that adapting to the situation was vital in ensuring stability, not only in  ‘navigating not just the continuation of our business through a global pandemic, but the upscale of it too.’

‘This was something no business had planned for so thinking on our feet was key. Any upscale is challenging, and in two years we have upscaled into our third store - making these decisions comes with challenge and risk; we have had to research and educate ourselves in areas we weren’t sure on to make sure every risk we were taking was somewhat calculated.’

Shoes at Relic Vintage
Shoes in the Relic Vintage store

Trent Ties

Being NTU Alumni, Martha feels that the links with the University have and will continue to contribute to the businesses’ success moving forwards.

‘We feel so closely connected to the Uni - Our core customer base are NTU students,’ she noted.

‘We’ve had interns from NTU as well as part-time staff and have formed good relationships with the business co-ordinators- NTU provides support for us whenever we reach out.’

Looking ahead, Conner is aiming for national success.

‘The short-term goal is to launch our own website (something that is currently in progress), but the long term goal is to open more stores across the country.’

Given their upscaling record, we predict big things for Relic Vintage in the coming years!

Published on 1 September 2020
  • Category: Business; Culture; Current students; Press office