This week’s instalment of Source takes us to The Yard in Kuwait, a lifestyle concept store that sells everything from beautifully designed items to a carefully curated selection of independent magazines. We speak with owner Ala’a Ali-Reda and Danah Behbehani to find out which are selling well in the Middle East.
When and why did you set up The Yard?
The Yard was co-founded as an online shop in early 2010 by us upon our completion of a graphics course in Central Saint Martins. Back in 2010 (and probably until today), the market in Kuwait lacked eccentricity in the products it offered. We wanted to introduce innovative, unusual and designed products to the market and highlight them as functional everyday products that still felt quite ‘special’. We work with many international designers to customize items specifically for the shop and most of our products are produced in limited quantities.
We enjoy design in general, so we’ve grown our product mix since then to include customized home-ware that was designed by us as well as hand-picked products by local designers. In 2013, we worked with local restaurant Q and launched a collaborative space named ‘Q at The Yard,’ a restaurant within a shop (above) – the first of its kind in the region.
How do you lay out the magazines around the shop and how did you decide on that set up?
We have a dedicated rack, which we’ve designed to display the magazines we stock. The magazines are arranged in a way so that the covers face the main dining area of the restaurant, and are close to the till. This allows customers to notice the magazines while they pay at the till or to pick up a copy and browse through while having a cup of coffee or waiting for friends.
Our magazines are also displayed in different places throughout our space. We have fun with our shop display area and we change things around every so often. We find similarities between the products we carry and stage them together to recreate fun sets such as ‘in the kitchen’ or ‘design studio’. For example, an ‘in the kitchen’ set would include recipe cards, tea towels, serving plates and The Carton, a magazine about food and culture in the Middle East. A ‘design studio’ set would include a pen, Magma sketchbook, and an architecture or design magazine such as WTD or Uppercase. One of the images sent is a ‘Breakfast at Q at The Yard’ set, where you can see Kinfolk, our designer planners, a pen and a jewellery pouch.
Who are your customers?
We’ve noticed that our space has become a haven for many other designers in Kuwait looking to be inspired while enjoying a cup of coffee. The type of customers The Yard attracts is people who appreciate unique, innovative, and designed products.
What’s your best-seller this month?
We carry print publications, whether magazines or books. In the magazine category, the best seller was Kinfolk, and in the book category, the top seller was the ‘Arabic Type Design for Beginners’.
Do you have a favourite local magazine?
The local magazine market in Kuwait is still very young compared to the magazines we’ve come across around the world. We have a favourite regional (Middle East) magazine, which is The Outpost, which we feel is a hidden gem. We find this magazine to be beautifully written and very inspirational, especially with its use of attractive infographics.
What has the biggest challenge been?
The biggest challenge has been stocking magazines that cater to specific groups – such as graphic design, food or travel – yet are attractive and accessible to anyone else. There is a thin line between specialized to few and intimidating to many. Being selective and exploring the magazines ourselves aids in our selection process of which magazines to stock.
What changes have you seen in the magazines since you opened?
One change we’ve witnessed over the past few years in magazines is the trend in ‘slow-living’ magazines such as Kinfolk and Cereal. There has also been a locality of magazines that our clients can relate to such as WTD, The Carton and Brownbook.
Another change we’ve seen is that magazines have become less ephemeral given the improvements in written content, images and overall production quality, making these magazines more of a collector’s item to archive for inspiration or reference.