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The SuperCool
An Australian couple's innovative approach to homeware retailing
by Fiona Killackey
on 28 June 2012
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For many, choosing how to outfit their home has become as important as how they choose to dress. With people like Tom Selby showcasing interesting creatives' homes and work spaces, and thousands of Pinterest boards dedicated to home décor it's become the expression of personal style through interiors has reached a fever pitch. Helping Melbournians do this is The SuperCool, a pop-up shop and online store created by Kate Vandermeer and David Nunez (Noonie). Enticed by the quirky goods on offer, we caught up with Kate to discuss retailing, retro styling and the reasons why pop-up shops are here to stay.

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How did the idea for The SuperCool come about?

We both wanted to work together doing something creative and we love stuff for the home/studio spaces. In my own trend research as part of iSpyStyle I'd noticed that pop-up shops were more than just a fad and did some research regarding vintage peddlers. I found the idea of taking your wares to the people was a really relevant retailing style in the current retail revolution we're having. So we workshopped that idea and then on our honeymoon met with heaps of artists, designers and vintage collectors.

It all began late last year, as a bit of an experiment to see how it would go. After just the first two locations Melbourne Central and Pope Joan we realized we had tapped into something unique. The response from customers and media was pretty overwhelming and we thought that we should go guns a blazing into 2012 with TheSuperCool!

How does it work in terms of finding and hiring the spaces?

There's no real strategy; it's very organic. We look for unusual spaces that have good foot traffic. We like to collaborate with other industries (Pope Joan and St Ali in terms of food, and Great Dane in terms of high-end Scandinavian-style furniture) and we like to move around different neighborhoods.

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You have some really different stuff. Where do you source product?

Literally all over the world. We've had product from Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, UK, Spain, USA, Hong Kong, Argentina, Brazil and, of course, Australia. We like to have a healthy mix of both local and international design and we support a lot of small independent designers and makers and work with a variety of vintage collectors. We've also started making some product ourselves and hope to do more of this down the track.

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Are you able to make a full-time living from this? If not what else do you guys do?

So far, I'm the only one full-time in the business, plus I've still got a handful of clients from iSpyStyle that I take on project work with and try to fit around TheSuperCool. Like any new business, you put in far more hours than you see profits but we're starting to see the rewards from this and its definitely given us hope that it will be a full-time gig for both of us soon. Noonie still works full time in the corporate sector alongside working on TheSuperCool at nights and weekends.

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In addition to being business partners you're also married. How has it been working together?

I would say 90% of the time I'm pretty lucky—we have really similar taste and views on business. I'm a bit more cautious and he's more of a risk-taker. So we balance out each other well. He's awesome at logistics, systems, operations and is a wickedly good researcher and buyer. I handle the branding, social media, online store and admin side, as well as the visual merchandising. We both do the retail side of things and we both enjoy connecting with the customers and chatting about what they'll do with our stuff. That other 10% is tough. When we're exhausted from working 45 days straight and we have to bump in/out of a shop—it's physically full on and that can test your patience, but we've managed to make it work thus far and we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

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How does The SuperCool differ from other online shops (i.e. for people unable to visit the pop-ups)?

We like to think that we offer an interesting curation of unique objects. We put time and effort into the displays of our products online as well as in store. We offer great affordability for people and that they don't get ripped off. We've also tried to make the online store descriptions an echo of how we are in store when chatting with customers. We offer DIY tips, we try to be witty and not take ourselves too seriously and make it fun! The online store still has a long way to go though and we've got some big plans for the future.

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What's next?

We're pretty excited to announce that we have just taken on a six-month lease for a semi-permanent shop at SO:ME Space at the South Melbourne Markets. We did a pop-up there for six weeks earlier this year and it was so well received, so when one of the shops came up for lease we jumped on it.

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