Despite calling Edinburgh home, independent shop Pad Lifestyle has a truly global outlook centred around sourcing the most distinctive products from as far afield as New York, Paris and Copenhagen. Founder and Creative Director, Anna Atwal’s keen curation skills have enabled her to bring together an eclectic collection including Jonathan Adler’s eccentric designs, Scandinavian homewares from Menu and vegan leather accessories from Matt & Nat (to name a few.) Based in a former newspaper shop, we visited Anna at Pad Lifestyle on a typically drizzly Edinburgh day to talk to her about her journey so far.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I studied History of Art and Music at the University of Glasgow. After two years in advertising and a successful 9-year career in PR, I left work to have my son Leo. I have always loved design and really wanted to start a business. Whilst raising Leo I got into property design and refurbishment and this is where Pad Lifestyle began.
How did your boutique come about?
After working on various property developments in Edinburgh, I decided it was time to open my own studio so I transformed a run-down newspaper shop into an inspiring place where I could work. Pad initially opened in April 2015 with my own range of bespoke, Indonesian furniture, selling paints, fabrics, contemporary artwork, a selection of handmade porcelain tableware from Paris, as well as jewellery, textiles and lighting by local designers. I love the collaborative creative process of design and working with like-minded people to create something new. Now, two years later we stock over 50 brands from all over the world and we have launched several collaborative collections with young designers.
Who inspires you?
My late father left his mark for sure. He sadly passed when I was 19 when I was doing my third-year exams at University. What got me through and still does today, is his “reach for the stars” attitude to life; to always challenge yourself and to be the best you can be.
My five year old son Leo – his curiousness and his creativity, his non-stop chatter and his giggles. While I work incredibly hard and rarely have a day off, he reminds me to be silly and not to take life too seriously.
My incredible husband. He is my rock. I’m a little stubborn (he’ll laugh at the ‘little’), and my ambition often gets the better of me when I take on too much, but his advice is always so important to me and definitely shapes what I do.
Miles Davis. My idol when I was a young jazz trumpeter, but even now I’m inspired by his supreme talent and wise words on life.
What do you think makes your shop unique?
Our lovely Pad team are passionate about design. The boutique is designed to inspire and delight our customers with a really eclectic mix of design from across the world. We show you how to mix contrasting styles like eclectic with Scandi, boho with minimalist. You can find fashion, lifestyle and home products in one curated space, where we showcase genius work by small, independent designers alongside massive international brands. We were recently nominated as Best Independent Retailer at the I-on Magazine Breakthrough Awards.
What do you predict for the future of retail?
The continued growth of online is massive. While this is affecting bricks-and-mortar stores across the world, including some of the biggest international brands, I do believe physical stores will continue to be important in the success of any retail brand. However, stores will have to transform their offering to keep customers’ interest as online continues to explode. It’s going to be all about the in-store experience and advances in technology and social media will play a big part in delivering this. Alongside this, I also predict a growing trend for a more collaborative outlook among businesses as sales channels continue to diversify.
In its mission to support bricks-and-mortar boutiques with an online platform, Trouva is a great example. By providing a well-marketed, high profile platform to sell online, Trouva allows small, creative boutiques to focus their spend on what they do best – sourcing great products and providing customers with a great store experience. I predict a lot more of this type of collaborative relationship between businesses in the sector emerging.
Who are your customers?
We have broad range of customers who all love great design. Our customers tend to be looking for something a little bit different and out of the ordinary for their homes and wardrobes. They come to Pad as we work hard to source unique products from all over the world – from fine pottery or chocolate from Brooklyn New York, to art and textiles by home grown talent like Hatti Pattison, or wonderfully luxurious cashmere knitwear from Denmark.
What tasks you do love doing and what do like to delegate?
Over the two years since we opened our boutique doors in 2015, the business has grown at a rapid pace. Our website and online presence takes up a lot of my energy. I spend a lot of time editing the website, and we work as a team on social media and blogging. Any time I have in the boutique is spent curating new ranges and overseeing styling. The Pad team do a fantastic job looking after customers in store, which allows me to focus on sourcing and buying, trade shows, and our design projects. I love travelling, meeting new designers, and bringing new finds to Pad. It’s an exciting atmosphere.
What is your advice to anyone wanting to open an independent shop?
Focus on what makes you different, focus on selling products you absolutely love and find an area that you can make your own. There are so many amazing boutiques out there and it’s important to find your own niche.
What are your favourite shops or places to visit in Edinburgh?
I love to spend some down time having a coffee in our local area at Leo’s Beanery, or going for a run around Inverleith Park to clear my head. Edinburgh is full of parks and green spaces to take some time out in and relax in the middle of a hectic day.
What makes Edinburgh such a hub for independent shops?
There are so many creative and cultured people in Edinburgh who appreciate art, design, and our exciting culinary scene. Edinburgh is blessed with some fantastic shopping areas like Stockbridge all of which have a great feeling of community. Local people are very passionate about the city and really support independent retailers. Edinburgh also has so many visitors from abroad, especially in the summer with the Fringe, so it’s a vibrant place with lots of opportunity to attract customers interested in a unique shopping experience.