With a strong focus on beautiful leather bags and accessories, sourced from as far afield as Turkey and as near as ’Toti, Brad and Mandy Stacey’s thriving business prides itself in building close relationships with its customers, writes Katrine Anker-Nilssen
A dream woke Brad up in the middle of the night 25 years ago. “I’m most creative when I’m sleeping,” he laughs. “This dream woke me up, I sat bolt upright and had the name Layed Back Leather, the venue Heritage Market, and the product leather all branded in my brain and my heart.
“For a year I worked my then soon-to-be small shop by day and waitered at night, ploughing every available cent back into my business,” says Brad, who says the key to his store’s success is uniqueness. “I love sourcing unique, quality leather items and exclusive goods that no one has. This is what gives us an edge.
“And of course backup service is everything,” says Brad. All products come with a one-year guarantee, which is six months more than consumer law. Some brands come with a limited lifetime guarantee – which covers zips, stitching and lining. “Getting to know your customers by name is also vital. Remembering your last conversation with them is always a winner when they pop by again.”
Brad met his wife Mandy in his store 20 years ago. “An indecisive shopper, I thought,” he laughs. “But I knew I was going to marry her the moment she walked through that door.”
Brad and Mandy – or Mad and Brandy as they are affectionately known among friends – have three kids. Their oldest is just about to move to Vienna, while their 15-year-old and 10-year-old go to school in the area. “It’s a family run business, we all contribute in some way,” says Brad. Mandy also manufactures Mookins bath and body products upstairs – inside the iconic stone turret of their beautiful building on Hillcrest’s Old Main Road. Layed Back relocated here six years ago from the old Heritage Market.
Stocking a beautiful range of leather handbags, purses, wallets, laptop bags, backpacks, hats, sheepskin slippers and leather accessories, Layed Back has been a favourite and frequented store among Durbanites for years.
“Jekyll and Hide, Brando, Thandana, Hannitan, Zemp, Tan Brand, Fenn bags and Pudney are some of our famous brands offering fantastic quality, price and backup service,” says Brad.
“We continually get new ranges and styles depending on seasons, and of course we always have our best sellers in stock. Sheepskin slippers, would you believe it, sell all year through. I suppose everyone has a family member in some part of the world who needs a gift to remind them of South Africa.” Their long-lasting leather belts, some reversible, are also very popular.
Layed Back also stock the beautiful Just Cruizin cotton clothing from Cape Town to complement their vast leather range, and own the Just Cruizin store at Village Walk uShaka. And finally, after many a North Coast client’s request of opening a store up that way, the Stacey’s decided they couldn’t say no anymore.
“We opened our new shop in uMhlanga Centre in April, opposite the famous Press Club coffee shop,” says Brad. “Timing is very important, and once again I listened to my heart and went for the gap. It’s flourishing in uMhlanga, and tourism is a big key. It’s a long road though, starting » a new business. Reinventing yourself can be exhausting. But I love creativity, so that helps.” The uMhlanga store offers all the best sellers from their flagship store and a bigger range of the Just Cruizin cotton clothing – suited to Durban’s warm climate.
“We are online now too, as people like to look and see before coming to touch and smell. That aspect of retail will always be around. It’s the whole experience in our store, we believe, that keeps people coming back,” says Brad, whose passion is sourcing, buying, and meeting the faces and hearing the stories of the people who make their beautiful products.
“If I pass a woman on the street or meet someone new, I immediately look at their handbag,” laughs Brad, adding that his best adventures include packing his leather bag and heading out of his dialling code into the country to discover the fresh air and beauty of our amazing Midlands.
As for future plans, nothing is set in stone. “We love what we do, me the buying and Mandy the selling and catch-ups with clients. Every night we discuss who came in that day, and retell funny stories,” smiles Brad. “But I would love to create my own leather range one day. Where that would go, is anyone’s guess!” *
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