The Maker Movement, The Sabah Dealer and Sustainable Retail

Posted on 6.29.15 by Jeanne Peterson in News & Trends

Sabah blog image

The Maker Movement is a trend that has received substantial media attention lately. Defined as a social movement with an artisan spirit, The Maker Movement culture has found a place in the ever-evolving world of retail.  It’s hard to believe it’s been around for a decade.

It’s a safe assumption that almost everyone has shopped for or been the recipient of a handmade item. DIY online-shop culture has been in full force since 2005. Think Etsy. This long-term trend stems from significant upgrades in manufacturing which have allowed the individual and/or retailer to pursue smaller, more cost effective operations. 3D printing and other cutting-edge technologies have become more accessible in recent years, making it easier for the maker to take the risk of expanding their product line with minimal production overhead compared to the risk vs. reward of the past. The opportunities this technology affords are boundless.

On the forefront of every retailer’s business plan is enhancing the consumer’s retail experience. Collaborating on the creative process brings a new dimension to customization and further personalizes that retail experience; the customer is engaged and fully involved with the product. Clients want to know that their opinions and preferences are valid input to the creation process.

There’s also a bit of magic involved in the making of a handmade item. Each fine-crafted good has a unique story. Authentic, ethical and high-quality are buzz words often associated with handmade goods.

A beautiful example of the sustainability of the Maker Movement and the power of the client experience can be found in the business approach of The Sabah Dealer. The retail endeavor was first inspired by a gift of a traditional pair of handmade Turkish slippers: sabahs. Mickey Ashmore, son of CBRE Vice Chairman Mickey Ashmore, is the founder of the company and is himself known as The Sabah Dealer. Young Ashmore has become a passionate champion of the uber-comfortable, versatile sabah shoe. After a year of “test-marketing” the sabahs through his globetrotting adventures and in response to numerous inquiries and requests from friends as to where they could acquire a pair; Ashmore recognized he was holding a product for an untapped niche market. He reached out to the Turkish artisans and in late 2013, after cultivating a personal relationship with the craftsmen in Turkey (to this day they continue to directly consult each other), Ashmore launched his business. He harnessed the ease and accessibility of social media and opened his home once a week for wine/fitting sessions (dubbed Sabah Sundays). The end result: The Sabah Dealer created a memorable customer experience; one that stands out among the latest retail trends.

Word travels and the social media responses were extremely positive: The perfect slipper. Fits like a dream. Hand-sewn, quality leather. They were hand-delivered to me. Where do I get a pair?!


In true Maker Movement fashion, the slippers are made in small batches and the time afforded to sew them (they average an 8-10 week delivery timeframe) is well worth it. They are made from quality calfskin leather in an array of colors. (Fabulous limited editions are offered from time to time as well.) Firsthand accounts speak to The Sabah Dealer’s stellar customer service. Hospitable fitting appointments. Hand delivered orders. It is apparent that the customer’s experience is of paramount importance. Take note retailers. If the edgy, urban boutique around the corner doesn’t carry them yet, go visit The Sabah Dealer’s Instagram account, for need-to-know info on how you can slip into your own pair.

A strong majority of consumers view shopping as a social event. That’s where the retail centers enter the scene. Retailers are seeking out brick and mortar locations to provide the consumer with the opportunity to view the physical product before purchasing online. Consumers still crave a tactile yet personalized experience.  They want to feel the merchandise and involve all their senses.

“Despite the rise of e-commerce, U.S. shoppers still make more than 90% of their purchases offline. That explains why many e-commerce companies have opened physical stores.”

Customers want to try on the clothes, smell the scents and feel the textures. This creates opportunity for shopping centers to craft a unique destination experience. Through pop-up shops, trunk shows, workshops, and developing a more tactile experience; retail centers are taking the initiative in the hopes of luring consumers to the store and driving sales of these new niche products.

Sabah Sunday 2

Sabah Sunday shoe fitting parties have been wildly positive and ever-the-globetrotter, The Sabah Dealer has segued into hosting trunk shows in a variety of cities across the country. Ashmore regularly travels to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas and possibly a city near you. These pop-up ventures have been heralded with much success.

The emergence of pop-ups launched by Etsy retailers have also received rave reviews.  x Dossier in NYC  (Lower East Side) and Etsy House in London (Covent Garden) have embraced the concept within the last year as part of their holiday marketing campaign.

Many retail real estate brokers are experiencing an uptick in tenant representation opportunities from the DIY e-commerce sector.  From eBay to Etsy to Bonobos’ Guideshop retailers are seeking out space and keeping the brokers focused and innovative. The traditional large format isn’t satisfying the needs for these innovative retailers, they want to trim and tailor their specifications to fit the smaller operations platforms that dominate the pop-up… think kiosk only more refined. How creative are your brokers?

P.S. I predict The Sabah Dealer will be coming to a chic, urban brick and mortar retail location in the near future.

Photos courtesy of The Sabah Dealer.

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