I promise to buy soon. But I tell him that I regard Deadstock General Store as a gallery.
I am always reminded of the famous quote from William Morris in the 19th century: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’
Liam’s 21st-century version of that is, “If something is designed well, branded well and marketed well, that is just as important. There’s a fine line between hawking goods and enriching people’s lives.”
Liam likes his customers to enjoy the experience of shopping and, from my time chatting with him, it’s apparent that they do. Each customer that comes into the store knows him by name and know that they will enjoy looking and buying.
And interestingly the age range just in my time talking to Liam was from 20ish to a confirmed ‘in his 70s’ as Liam said afterwards. That gentleman was talking about his hometown Leigh and the demise of the coal mining pits. So Deadstock’s customers are eclectic as well as the ‘useful and beautiful’ things on sale there.
Liam opened the store around four years ago. A fashion design graduate from ManMet and then a Masters in fashion at the Royal College of Art (I’m impressed, but Liam shrugs the RCA off…), he spent four years working freelance in London before returning to Manchester. I comment that Liam doesn’t have a Manc accent, but he replies that whenever he felt threatened in London it appeared!
So why did you want to open a store I asked. “Well, I like shopping. So selecting and buying things to sell is the fun side of things. We couldn’t afford a huge amount of stock at first and so I took in clothing alterations and repairs, using the sewing skills I learnt at college. The idea was that it would be a regular income if nobody bought anything.
I still do that, but originally part of the plan was to design, make and sell small ranges of my own designs. I haven’t got around to doing that yet, but it’s still on the agenda. Our strapline is ‘hats, bags and fancy goods….’ Very Victorian, but I might sell my own hats in time.”
I ask Liam whether it was a ‘leap of faith’ opening a shop, rather than designing fashion. “Yes it was to a degree, but I wanted to do it. I guess calling the store Deadstock was subconsciously ironic – it’s the retail word for stock that’s never sold.”
“Everything looks better in context…” (my gallery theory again) “…although some bigger shops around the country sell some of these products and they get lost. And often they buy large quantities at trade fairs and products become homogenised. I choose everything specifically and display everything specifically so that customers enjoy the experience.”
One of Liam’s customers is an evolutionary biologist, researching the potential consequences of humanity threatening diseases. Liam told me that he said to him, “You’re saving the world and I’m messing about playing shop all day.” To which the scientist replied, “You making being able to buy nice things is what it’s all about. It makes what I do worth doing. What’s the point if you can’t enjoy things?”
Deadstock, 46 Edge St, Manchester M4 1HN