Q&A with Ashley Hunt
Meet the man behind one of Depop's largest and longest serving stores Hunt's Emporia
The proliferation of social media platforms has seen most industries restructure themselves to accommodate a consumer base more akin to scrolling, than sorting through rails and aisles. Fashion is no exception. In the early 2010s Tumblr had millennials (myself included) in a chokehold. Brothel creepers, Monroe beanies, MNWKA tees and a whole host of trends we'd rather forget filled littered the dashboards of style conscious teens desperate to assert own individuality. Ironically, by copying people on the internet. This coincided with the founding on Depop in 2011. The online platform we're now all familiar with that lets sellers free their wardrobes of preloved bits and allows sellers to find rare gems to liven up their collection.
Thankfully for me the early 2010s also brought about me meeting Ashley Hunt at college whilst studying for my A levels. He was one of the earliest Depop innovators to realise that the platform offered more than the opportunity to flog one's own unwanted bits. The more entrepreneurial teens of that age understood that sourcing vintage clothes in bulk represented the opportunity to make a fully fledged business out of Depop. This was arguably the precursor to mass reseller culture. The reason I can't find Air Force 1's for less than £150, but that's a dispute for another article. By finding vintage wholesalers and buying in bulk Ashley's business has grown from a bedroom operation, to a storage unit and this year an entire office unit complete with on-site storage and a studio set-up. There's a real homegrown element to the growth of Hunt's Emporia. Post Covid a lot of businesses are realising the importance of an in-person presence and Hunt's Emporia would appear to be no different when you consider their recent collaborative pop-ups with Depop, Mimm Store and Urban Outfitters. But it's actually the innocuous Sadler Gate strip of Derby where his first pop-ups, complete with DJ sets from friends, began years before the pandemic. After a decade of business and friendship, it's my pleasure to introduce our readership to Hunt's Emporia.
How did Hunts Emporia get started?
It was first started in 2015 after helping a good friend Jack Teece and his Depop account Merchants Corner. I helped and watched how he operated and thought this could be something I could do. Fast forward to summer 2016 I was working a 9-5 job at an engineering firm when my appendix decided it didn’t want to be with me anymore and I had it removed. In the time I had off I went and set up my business and went to get my first load of stock. For the record I recommend not doing anything after an operation.
What changes in U.K. shopping habits have you noticed since starting?
Generally shopping habits haven’t really changed in the 7 years I’ve been doing this. People have been wanting second hand clothing for decades and with the rise in sustainability it’s only become more popular. There are changes in trends I see on a year by year basis, new trends start very quickly these days especially in the U.K. so trying to keep up with brands people want and don’t want anymore is always something I have to consider. Prior to Covid it was very steady with online shopping, in the midst of covid it went crazy as people were just at home trying to occupy themselves. Now after Covid it’s been a bit of a dip in online shopping, which it was expected due to people wanting to go outside and go on holidays etc. 2 years after it’s been a steady incline with it going back to how it was before.
How beneficial has doing events been for the growth of the shop?
Since making pop-up shops a more regular thing I’ve seen a lot of improvements to business. Of course number one is that they bring in another stream of income which then helps fund more stock, equipment and other pop up events. Number two: they create a buzz around what city they're in in as it gives people something to do. Thirdly it’s a good way to get people who don’t know about the store or Depop itself to visit and then potentially have future customers.
Now that vintage re-selling is more common how have you managed to maintain relevance and a loyal customer base?
I’ve always been committed to providing an efficient service. Over the 7 years I’ve kept a 5 star review of over 6000+ reviews which I believe is always something a customer will look at, and bring them back to the store. Having reasonable pricing that’s affordable in this current market will bring people to shop and I like to look after good returning customers by offering discounts etc.
There seems to be more attention paid to your branding, has this been a conscious decision or have you just happened to meet illustrators and graphic designers?
I’d say it’s a bit of both, I’ve recently moved all my business to Nottingham which instantly has been more suited but in 2022 I was introduced to Louis who runs an illustration account called @slippy.world. From the first time I saw his work I said I would use him straight away, so by the end of 2022 I had him do me a whole new rebrand which has done wonders for the business and made it quite iconic to the Hunts Emporia name.
Have your shopping habits or relationship with clothes changed as a result of re-selling?
I wouldn’t say my relationship has changed with clothing itself, as I’ve always loved clothes and what they can do for people. My habits intertwine with that as I still shop as much as I would of before, now just more sustainably. I would say my relationship with business has got a lot more intense as things have grown over the last couple years, which creates more things to think about and do but it’s all about adapting to new things. I’m just adapting to this positive change which in the long run will be very good.
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