Lifestyle Battle is bringing happiness to shoppers with its curated products and welcoming experience  

Officially opening its doors on Good Friday, East Sussex indie Lifestyle Battle is already surpassing its founders’ expectations. The 500sq ft pure play bricks-and-mortar store is centred on the Scandi lifestyle, offering cosy clothing, footwear and homewares in neutral tones and natural tactile fabrics. Inside shoppers can find jersey tops and knits by Chalk UK, Superga sneakers, sheepskin slippers by Shepherds of Sweden and Elä Life home fragrances. There’s also an artfully arranged table of faux flowers by Hills Interiors, Abigail Ahern’s naked lady sculptures, Newgate clocks, London Mole reading glasses, Melt and Embers candles, Garden Trading homewares and Chic Antique furniture imported from Denmark.

For co-owner Saara Rootes, who runs the business with sister Karen Hadley, it’s about offering shoppers the Scandi lifestyle experience: “Our concept is based on the hygge way of living, which is all about cosiness, comfort and relaxation,” she says. “We wanted the shop to feel warm, welcoming and cosy so shoppers feel instantly relaxed from the moment they walk in.”

High achievers

The idea behind Lifestyle Battle was formed over mince pieces during last year’s festive period. As avid shoppers with similar tastes in fashion and interiors, the business-minded sisters began to wonder if they could pool their expertise and open a shop. “We’re very close and it just makes sense for us to work together,” says Saara. “While we have no prior retail experience, we each have our own unique skillset that collectively make us a powerful force.”   

From the very beginning both agreed to continue working on their separate business interests while planning the opening and ultimately running the shop. Saara is based locally to the store and co-owns her own media company while Karen spends over half of the year working as a project manager in Majorca. Currently, Saara works in the shop full-time merchandising and serving customers while Karen looks after the finances and general business operations behind the scenes. Both sisters are equally responsible for buying.

While many new start-ups can take months to come into fruition, Saara and Karen had gone from discussing the idea at Christmas to signing the lease on 1 February. Their chosen location, the historical town of Battle, is a tourist hotspot thanks to its Benedictine Abbey and links to the great war of 1066. Plus, they both have personal connections with the area. “We’re both local and have always shopped here, so it made perfect sense for the location of our shop,” says Saara. “It’s a brilliant town steeped in history and it’s surrounded by beautiful countryside too. We knew Easter would be a really busy time in the area so we decided to plan the opening for that weekend.”

Community spirit

Battle town centre is well populated by indies, which are bolstered by a supportive community of small business owners. Right from the start Saara and Karen agreed to bring something completely different to the area to complement what was already on offer. “It isn’t about competing with other retailers,” says Saara. “All the traders in Battle town centre work well together and we have a joint vision to bring people to the high street. We stay in touch via a Whatsapp Group and attend regular meetings at the town’s Chamber of Commerce. We definitely don’t stock the same products as each other and we’ll happily send customers to other shops if we don’t carry what they’re looking for.”

Saara and Karen

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by any new indie retailer is securing the right selection of brands. However, the co-founders were able to source their first-choice suppliers in just three months, visiting Top Drawer and Spring Fair as well as contacting brands they already knew: “We stock products we would wear or have at home ourselves,” says Saara. “In fact, we were already customers of most of Lifestyle Battle’s brands.”

Opting for short order suppliers was a conscious decision given the short turnaround of opening the shop. However, it’s a strategy that’s working well: “It means we can buy in low volumes and reorder regularly,” says Saara. “We have new stock arriving every other day, which keeps it exciting for customers.”

Scandi haven

As well as product sourcing, Saara and Karen had another big job on their hands before they could open the shop’s doors: “The shop was previously a newsagent so it needed a total refurbishment,” says Saara. “We wanted an interior that complemented our products, so we chose Farrow and Ball paint shades, natural flooring and accent shelving in white, dark grey and stripped wood. The team of builders we worked with were fantastic.”

To bring extra magic to the space, Saara uses the store’s range of diffusers and candles to fill it with fragrance: “People walk in and comment on the amazing aroma,” she says. “We mostly use aromatherapy blends from Elä Life, which create a beautiful spa-like scent. This helps with sales too as so many customers will ask what it is and then make a purchase.”

When preparing for the grand opening, Saara’s media and events background came into play to create drama around the launch. For this the shop’s concept was purposely kept under wraps until the very last minute to generate intrigue and excitement in the town: “We covered the windows completely during the refit so no one had any idea how the shop looked inside or what we were going to sell,” she says. “Then, on the evening before we opened, we had a big reveal and removed the coverings. It created quite a lot of buzz in the local area and it meant lots of people came to see what we were about as soon as we opened.” 

Creating an experience

To celebrate the launch, Saara and Karen hosted an invite-only shopping event for friends, family and local businesses. “The opening night was absolutely brilliant,” says Saara. “We really didn’t know what to expect and it was so successful it blew us away. We served champagne and canapés and everyone had a great time. People stayed for hours!”

So far the reaction from shoppers has been unanimously positive, too. Saara says she works hard to create a positive shopping experience with thoughtful merchandising and absolutely no hard selling: “We’re friendly and attentive but I won’t stand over someone while they’re browsing; there’s no pressure to buy from us at all and people can stay as long as they like. With the merchandising my aim is to create an enticing space that isn’t too cluttered. Customers will often walk around the shop once and then go back again as there’s a lot to see. We keep it very organised so it isn’t off-putting or overpowering.”

However, Saara is the first to admit she is still learning about retail and what’s best for Lifestyle Battle’s growing customer base. And this journey is proving to be surprising: “We wouldn’t have predicted it but our reading glasses have been popular. We only got a few pairs in at first to offer to customers who couldn’t read the labels on our products and they’ve turned out to be a big seller. Now we just order their prescription!”

Loyal shoppers ­

Currently, Lifestyle Battle stock ratio is around 60 per cent clothing alongside 40 per cent homewares. Its products are sold in-store only and the co-founders have no immediate plans to venture into e-commerce: “I just don’t think you can replicate the same experience and customer service online as you can when shoppers visit the store,” says Saara. “We have a presence on social media which is growing, but we’re not thinking about e-commerce as part of our future.”

When it comes to hopes and aspirations for the business, Saara is razor-focused on her vision: “I want Lifestyle Battle to be the go-to shop that people come into town for,” she says. “It’s already happening; I see people walking onto the high street and heading over to see our windows and what we have in stock. So, for us, the next year will really be about raising awareness and building up repeat business. We’ve had such positive feedback already and so many comments that the shop is just what was missing from Battle high street. It’s exciting and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”