Go ahead, punk: Spex Pistols given V&A boost.
Independent retail in focus
The arrival of the V&A design museum in Dundee has given a boost to customer numbers at local optical boutique Spex Pistols.
Richard Cook, who founded the store at the end of 2011, reported a big increase in people popping in from other parts of Scotland and the UK as well as from abroad since the early summer.
“It’s been a real fun time,” Mr Cook said.
“The V&A seem to have done everything possible to include us and other local businesses – I think the whole city feels the effect.”
The optical boutique, based in Johnston’s Lane, employs nine people and offers a wide variety of designer, vintage and classic frames, with something for every pocket, personality and profile.
Spex Pistols also has a strong music focus, and is a local cultural hotspot.
Famous visitors have included Johnny Marr, co-founder of The Smiths.
Richard has been a lens maker since he left school in 1987, initially working in a local factory making lenses for most of northern Europe.
“I then left to go study in Glasgow, where I also ran a lens factory, and have worked for all the biggest high street opticians as a lab manager,” he said.
“But, for as long I can remember, I have wanted to have artistic autonomy in my job.
“I felt stifled everywhere else – Spex Pistols gives me room to be creative.”
Richard said he had been planning the business in his head for a few years.
“At that exact time the very shop site I wanted became available, I had the Spex Pistols name and the business plan ready,” he recalled.
“I was also really fortunate that family and friends were all ready to help me out.
“My dad was incredibly supportive and made sure it worked. For that I am eternally grateful.”
Richard was unsure how Spex Pistols would work and if people would trust the concept behind it.
“But they came in their droves and recommended us to their friends,” Richard said.
“People seemed to love the name Spex Pistols and I already had a big collection of really-good quality unworn vintage spectacles.
“The main thing we did though, from the very start, was aim for the highest possible level of customer service.
“People like to be treated with respect and with good manners, but also to feel very relaxed.”
Asked about the secret of his success, Richard replied: “I wouldn’t say that we are success yet.
“It has only been seven years, and we have a lot of learning to do.
“We are very lucky though to have always had amazing staff, with no exceptions, a good landlord who cares more about its tenants than aggressive profits and we’ve had the best of luck with customers too.
“I think the Dundee factor definitely works. It doesn’t matter where someone is from or what their politics are in Dundee. Everyone is the same as everyone else.”
Top: Owner Richard Cook outside Spex Pistols in Johnston’s Lane in Dundee’s Westport.