The year is 2000 and thankfully the Millenium Bug hasn't brought the world to a standstill... not compared to the 2020 counterpart anyway!
11th November 2000, and Scotland are all set to play Australia at Murrayfield in the Autumn Test Series, Ian McGeechan (not yet a Sir) is enjoying his second stint as Scotland coach, the rugby shirts are made of cotton and - filled with hope - First XV opens it's doors.
The original shop layout.
An idea was born to bring Edinburgh a first dedicated rugby store, something away from the matching tracksuits of the chain stores that just didn't cater to the rugby fan. Backed by founder Ian Clark, with Emily & Lee McDonald's tenacity to bring the idea to life and Adam Clark along as the bin juice 19-year-old, the shop was brought to life in Haymarket.
Remember when Puma made the Ireland kit?!
The shop rode the wave of Canterbury's rise in Scotland; stadium pants and Rangatira rugby boots being the order of the day with a notable mention to the Mizuno Timaru! Still the most comfortable boot ever right!
So here we are having experienced 5 Rugby World Cups, and on the eve of our 6th British & Irish Lions Tour, reminiscing about our 20 years in the business.
Under Armour mocks used to be a staple.
There have definitely been some challenges in our two decades, including seemingly endless tram installation works at Haymarket, scaffolding outside our door due to roof repairs in the building, and of course the 2008 recession. But we have survived everything thrown at us and come out the other side considerably stronger!
This scaffolding seemed to be up there for years.
2010 was an exciting time for us with a full shop revamp and the opening of Europe's first Under Armour store in number 2 Haymarket Terrace. We really were living our American dream with the new addition but by 2016, Under Armour had become too big a beast for us to handle and unfortunately we had to shut the doors and pull all our focus back to the rugby shop.
Featuring the great snowfall of winter 2010/11!
A little bit late to the online game, we didn't really ramp up our presence online at rugbystuff.com until 2006 by which time the online juggernaut had well and truly left the station. However with perseverance and six or so website iterations later, we are making big headway in this area. Partly due to the discovery of Shopify in 2016, an integrated website and till solution, we are seeing very steady growth in our online sales. In 2019 we turned over 60% of our sales instore and 40% online. In 2020 with the Covid pandemic we have seen this turned on its head. This year we are operating at approx. 80% online and just posted our best results ever for October!
The current shop exterior.
Staff wise, we have definitely seen a few! Mainly young students with a passion for rugby. It would be impossible to list them all but we'll start with Oscar the shop cocker spaniel who is sadly no longer with us, with notable mentions to Chris, Cammy, Dan, Dave, David, Dale, Duncan, Emma, Jamie, Jonny, Matthew, Sangy, Stuart and of course Andy who has been with us for 15 years and grown into a monolith on Shopify and social media.
Shopfit courtesy of adidas for an All Blacks game.
The current weekend squad of Morgan and Jordan headed up by Ross have coped admirably with the flip in job role from mainly customer-facing roles to packing up bags for the web sales.
There is nothing we would enjoy more than getting as many of the past squad together for a couple of beers however with Covid-19 it's just not an option (at the moment!) Nando's, Wagamama, bowling at Fountain Park and Edinburgh matches followed up by a visit to Cav have been some of the regular haunts of a First XV staff night out. Some have even had to sleep it off in the office!
So as 2020 rumbles on, hopefully we'll continue to set records in sales, but we are certainly missing the matchday atmosphere of a normal Autumn Test series and of course our regular customers coming into the store for a blether about all things rugby.
Here's to the next 20!