Take a Sneak Peek at Online Retailer Happy & Glorious.
In this ‘Meet the Retailer’ interview we’re catching up with Kate Tompsett from Happy & Glorious. Kate gives us a unique look behind the scenes of her gift & homeware business. A retail journey which has taken her from an online venture to a “bricks and mortar” shop in Kent.
About Happy & Glorious
Tell us a little about your company.
I set up my online business in 2012, selling British-made gifts and homeware. I was inspired by Mary Portas’ Bottom Line programme, which focused on the importance of British manufacturing. I’d worked in independent retail from age 17 and couldn’t imagine any other career more enjoyable or more suited to me.
I started to exhibit at fairs in 2013, attend parties in people’s homes, and in 2014, I had my first pop-up shop. I now have a high street shop in Ashford, Kent which is a Portas Pilot town. It really feels as if everything is falling into place!
What is your role in the business?
I am the business owner. As Happy & Glorious is a relatively young business, I am buyer, photographer, website updater, bookkeeper, salesperson, visual merchandiser, marketing manager, packing department and most recently, designer.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is having the autonomy to make decisions about my business; to come up with a strategy, and implement it immediately. I love waking up in the morning, not knowing what the day will bring. I love planning my marketing and always try to include the other independent businesses in the shopping centre too, as together we’re so much stronger!
Happy & Glorious Products
What new products do you have planned for the future?
I have recently added jewellery to my range. Whilst the rest of my products are mostly bought as gifts, I have noticed that jewellery is the most likely product to be ‘self-gifted’. I’ve sourced a couple of wonderful suppliers and their collections are selling well. I have a few new botanical designs of my own to work on, which I will get printed onto notebooks and cards soon.
What do you look for in the products you choose?
First and foremost, they must be British-made. I look for quality products with a mid-range price tag, so that people can see that British products, whilst a little more expensive than imported goods, are still affordable. My customers like natural materials; lambswool, porcelain, silver, pewter, and cotton. Stocking only soy wax candles and paraben and cruelty-free bath products is a must too.
Do trends influence the products that you purchase?
One of the main reasons that I attend trade shows is to pick up on trends and to try to incorporate them into my collections. There is a big difference between trends and fads, however, and I only buy things that I genuinely love. I try to keep a classic, beautiful look to all my products, with the occasional twist of silliness.
The Future for Happy & Glorious
What would you like to do next with the business?
I would like to work on some new products myself, as the collections that I have designed always seem to sell well. I think the exclusivity of my own products is important, and customers love to hear the story behind them.
This also gives me the option to have a separate wholesale collection in the future. I am planning my first London show for 2017, which will be a great way to publicise my shop and website. Since opening the shop, my mind has been buzzing with excitement about the future and the adventures that it will bring!
Catching Up with Happy & Glorious in 2018
The first part of the interview was conducted in 2016, and this year I caught up with Kate to see what had changed since our last feature. Here’s what she had to say…
The 2018 Catch Up
We last talked about your business in 2016, what’s been happening since then?
When we last spoke, I had recently opened my shop in Ashford, Kent, as part of an amazing regeneration project. Ashford is a Portas Pilot Town, and much had been done to regenerate the high street, and in particular, a shopping centre; Park Mall. After a year of trading, I had outgrown the space, and in early 2017 moved the shop to Cranbrook, Kent. It’s a much larger premises, which means I can now host guest artists and creative workshops, which has always been part of my long-term plan. The building dates back to the 15th Century, so to be spending each day here in a gorgeous historical building feels like such a privilege.
What new products are you launching in 2018?
I’m doing a lot more designing this year, so am starting with a range of products on the theme of Cranbrook itself. One of the smallest towns in Kent, Cranbrook is filled with gorgeous architecture (including a windmill and a church known as the ‘Cathedral of the Weald) so it’s easy to feel inspired. I’m working on some other craft ideas so that I can run my own creative workshops, and am also collaborating with a company to make my own exclusive range of pampering products.
How do you feel the industry has developed in the last 2 years?
When it comes to buying, I am finding it easier to discover British made brands that are in the right price range. When I first set up the website in 2012, it was a real challenge to find the right kind of product at the right price. I think more people are setting up businesses in Britain, which can only be a good thing for the economy! The high street continues to be a challenge, but having a good website is the way forward.
What changes would you like to see in the industry next?
Whilst the business rates changes have worked in my favour, there is still so much that could be done by the government to support and encourage small businesses. Sometimes it seems that much of my time is spent doing paperwork and ‘box ticking’ just to be compliant!
I’d like to see a reduction in the cost of environmentally conscious packaging, as it costs a fifth of the price to purchase plastic carrier bags, as opposed to paper ones. We need a solution to make gift wrapping supplies more eco-friendly, and a way to protect greeting cards from damage without the need for single use cellophane.
What advice would you give to someone who was inspired to follow in your footsteps?
Be prepared for a huge amount of work. Take every opportunity to learn new things; I’ve been in retail for 23 years and am still learning every day. Don’t be afraid to try new things to test the market, and don’t be afraid to fluff up from time – mistakes are lessons in disguise. Above all, have fun!
What’s your next big goal/ambition for Happy & Glorious?
I’d like to increase my sales on the website and have a separate team working on it to allow me more time for design and business development. I’m working toward a plan to have a wholesale business set up to run alongside my retail one. As I increase my time spent on designing, I am building a collection of work that could sell to other small businesses, which should increase cash flow and get the Happy & Glorious name out further into the world!
Find Out More
Now you’ve read the interview, why not take a look at the shop. Visit the Happy & Glorious website.