This is no ordinary store

In an extremely challenging year where community support has become more important than ever, Circle Collective have opened a new store in London with the sole objective of helping young, disadvantaged people get into work and on a path to transform their lives. Along with several other professionals, Briggs Hillier stepped in to help Circle Collective fulfil their vision.

Circle Collective is a UK charity and social enterprise that helps disadvantaged, local, unemployed young people into permanent, life-changing work. Their vision is that no young person who wants to be in employment should be without a job.

Around half of the young people helped by Circle Collective have no work experience and few qualifications. Many face multiple barriers to work such as deprivation, learning difficulties and mental health issues, as well as lack of training, confidence and resilience needed within the workplace.

To act as a platform from which to provide training, work experience and build self confidence that can open up a variety of employment opportunities, Circle Collective are building a unique retail business. Turly Humphreys, CEO & Founder of Circle Collective says “Retail is the perfect training ground for customer service, sales and teamwork, so combined with our employability charity and a great network we have now placed over 500 young people into permanent jobs”.


Having already opened two London stores in Hackney and Lewisham, Circle Collective have re-located their previous Lewisham store and launched a new game-changing outlet in Lewisham Shopping Centre, where Briggs Hillier have supported with strategic direction, design and implementation. But this is no ordinary store.

Not only does the store provide structured work experience and customer service training for unemployed young people, there are many additional benefits built into the concept. Through making a profit, the store creates additional funds for Circle Collective’s “Back your Future” employability course and creates wider knowledge and recognition of the brand, to support with further funding and expansion. The store also provides a local information hub for young people to access information on careers and jobs within an environment they can relate to. It’s also a space for the community to come together, to host a range of events from talks and seminars through to catwalks and launch parties, and educate customers about the work of Circle Collective – pushing the ethos that no young person who wants to be employed will be without a job.

In addition to the retail space, the first floor includes a dedicated training room where Circle Collective provide support in all aspects of obtaining work, from CV workshops through to practising interviews.


Sustainable & Ethical Product

The product offer in store has been selected to not only promote sustainability, but engage and appeal to the young people that Circle Collective want to support. With a streetwear focus, product is unisex and includes apparel, footwear, accessories and skateboards. In addition, there is the opportunity for relevant local artists and emerging designers to take retail space to showcase their products.

Brands include a combination of established names such as Fila, Diadora, Kappa, Vans, Huff & Brxton and Ragged Priest through to emerging, independent brands such as Light Work, Space Age Wear and Trash Gxng. The focus is to support emerging brands and allow them the platform to showcase their designs alongside established brands. But the brand mix is evolving as Turly is on a quest to stock or partner with other brands that have shared values or want to support the young people that Circle Collective help, while providing customers with a diverse and unique shopping experience.

Key to the offer is Circle Collectives own apparel brand ‘Purpose’, a men’s and women’s streetwear collection created in collaboration with the London College of Fashion. Purpose product is produced by ‘Making for Change’; a training and manufacturing unit in HMP Downview women’s prison. By participating in ‘Making for Change’ the women learn manufacturing up to level 3 accreditations, helping to reduce reoffending rates by giving the women a skill that will help them find employment within the manufacturing industry when they leave prison.


Multi-functional Store Hub

Located at the heart of the store is a multi-functional ‘hub’. The hub is flagged by central column branded Circle Collective and incorporates digital screens that promote Circle Collective’s work and success stories.

Surrounding the column are four flexible units. Formed from a standard, simple framework each unit has an individual purpose that can be adapted and re-positioned to create different configurations and multifunctional spaces for events and activities that take place in store. Uses range from a payment desk and work bench to build, repair and re-purpose skateboards through to footwear and accessory displays. This is in addition to promoting local community businesses or educating customers about the importance of Circle Collective to the community.

Each unit is made from the same carcass shape and size and includes integrated seats/ storage units on castors that can be pushed under the units or pulled out to transform the store space when needed for different functions and events.


During a seminar units and seating can be arranged in a semi-circle configuration around the hub with clear visibility of the digital screen, which can be used to help educate young people in large groups about work prospects. Additionally, the units can be positioned to allow for smaller groups or one-to-one discussions.

For product launches units can be arranged as a row of ‘feature plinths’ to take mannequins or as table displays integrated into wall merchandising. The space can also be transformed to host catwalks, arranging units to create seating/ standing space on one side of the store and a runway on the other, utilising the back of house area and fitting room for outfit changes.

Alternatively, the hub units can be positioned at the rear of the store to create a bar area for events and parties or a DJ booth alongside the central column with easy access to power and the digital screens.

The perimeter wall space is also fully flexible to adapt between standard merchandising bays and feature bays that facilitate brand stories and product changes to suit requirements. The flexible and adaptable merchandising system contains a series of ‘hook on’ elements that allow areas to change between apparel, footwear and skate. Easily movable perimeter wall graphics and messaging help to build product stories to life and capture the essence of the Circle Collective brand – models included on graphics are young people who have been helped by Circle Collective.


Planning Within Lockdown

The Lewisham store was in the early planning stages as the UK was in the first lockdown. With business in semihibernation, along with several other professionals Briggs Hillier stepped in to provide retail knowledge and expertise, as well as volunteer the support of interior designers, graphics designers and project managers to help deliver the vision.

With Briggs Hillier on board to support with planning, coupled with Circle Collective’s consistently high outcomes, Lewisham Shopping Centre’s owner, Landsec, fully supported the project.

“As soon as I spoke to Adrian at Briggs Hillier he got it… and from that minute on everything that came from them reflected my dream and more for the new Circle model store. The actual fit out has been amazing considering it has been done during lockdown, so professional and their support for our charitable aims has been unbelievable” says Turly Humphreys.

With sustainability at the heart of all design decisions, Briggs Hillier were also able to obtain unused, re-cycled and upcycled fixtures from clients and bring on board suppliers to provide free or at cost services to help turn what was an unloved and abandoned store into a credible retail and training space.

Turly has aspirations to take the Circle Collective concept to other locations in London boroughs and beyond… This is in addition to considering other retail models beyond fashion stores that could support the Circle Collective vision, and is keen to use the Lewisham store as launch pad to expand into new locations and build corporate support.

If you’re a brand interested in potential collaborations, would like to offer corporate support or want to find out more about Circle Collectives work, visit their website or email Turly at

If you need support developing innovative retail solutions that get between the lines, we can help. Contact Jenny Hillier at

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Jenny Hillier

23rd December 2020