When to Take the Leap, with Harriet Rouse

Posted by Hannah on Nov 12, 2021 1:29:35 PM

Stroll down King Street, in St Helier, Jersey and you’ll find — opposite the little Boots — Harriet & Rose, a store dedicated to ‘thoughtful gifting in Jersey’. It’s a beautiful store and, in keeping with its USP, it’s a well-thought out one. There’s room to manoeuvre a buggy, dogs are welcome, and stock is, wherever possible, sourced from Jersey — ‘if we can source it in Jersey we will, but if we can’t we’ll get it here for you.’

We caught up with Harriet, the woman (and name) behind Harriet & Rose, to hear more about opening the physical Harriet & Rose store earlier this year (“while the rest of the world went online, we went physical”), and to ask a simple question without a simple answer: when do you take the leap? 

To understand how Harriet & Rose came to be, we need to wind it back by five years to when Harriet first moved to the island of Jersey. 

“I moved to Jersey in 2016 (I had an online jewellery business in the UK which I sold when I moved to Jersey). One of the first things I realised was that my days of last minute online gifting were gone! Island living is full of upsides, but delivery times are not one of them. I had the germ of an idea for an online gifting business. Jersey is only nine by five miles, and so it was relatively easy to target the demographically small area. I launched my online gifting business delivering only in Jersey in June 2019.”

Harriet learned a lot from that first year of trading. She worked on optimising the site locally, and on growing the social media. She started offering same day delivery, as well having a small office in town where customers could pick up from (“The town collection was always key!”). Harriet & Rose was gaining traction locally, with a steady stream of orders (albeit in relatively small numbers). 

And then, Covid hit. 

“I was in the oddly lucky position that everyone overnight had to stop shopping in person. Added to that people who were unable to travel to Jersey, still wanted to send gifts to their loved ones.”

Suddenly, what was once a five year dream — a physical space for Harriet & Rose — became a more immediate option. I asked Harriet how she knew it was time for a shop — whether it was purely a numbers game, or if there was a certain amount of instinct involved. But apparently, there was one key factor I hadn’t considered… 

‘Space! There’s that moment when you can’t go on having boxes piled up in your hallway. And kitchen. And garage. And shed. I knew I needed premises to facilitate taking the business to the next level, and it was a decision between high street or office. In the run up to Christmas 2020 I organised a Small Business Pop up and knew that when I could talk to my customers about what they were buying, I sold more… and so the decision sort of made itself. Though I was not originally looking for prime retail, which is where I’ve ended up!’

Harriet and Rose
Harriet and Rose
Harriet and Rose

Pop up stores are becoming an increasingly popular way for retailers to test the waters between ecommerce and brick and mortar stores, and it’s a trend that was accelerated by — you guessed it — the pandemic. 

Appear Here, a marketplace for pop-up spaces, saw a 125% increase in available space between June and August 2020 alone as more high street spaces struggled to hold tenants. 

And ecommerce store > pop-up store > brick and mortar store has become a proven route by some pretty major brands to emerge over the last years, like $1.8 billion valued cosmetics company, Glossier. 

For Harriet, the process of actually finding and fitting her space was pretty smooth sailing. 

“​​I looked at a small premises before Christmas and it felt beautiful and perfect. But it wasn’t future-proof, and the business couldn’t grow anywhere. Then in the new year it was let, and so I looked at two others, one of which was the one I took. It needed a fair bit of work on electrics etc… that the landlord undertook, but it’s prime St Helier, period property, and I love it all. Except the drop ceiling tiles that look like they belong in an office. So I sprayed those gold!”

With the brick and mortar space flourishing alongside the ecommerce store, Harriet & Rose is going from strength to strength. But not without a huge amount of work, both behind the scenes, and in the day to day running. This was clear when I asked Harriet what advice she’d give to other ecommerce stores thinking of opening a physical premises:

“However hard you think you’ll work, it’ll be harder. I have been in the shop six days a week since I opened. It’s my name above the door, and whilst I get it all running smoothly, I need to be here all the time. There is no work life balance, it’s all work! I knew what I had to take each week to cover my costs, and you have to be honest about that. And there are always additional costs. From signage, to rates that were told to you wrong, you have to have a contingency. I’d also suggest hiring as soon as you can. I know it goes against advice, but it gives you room to drive the business forward.” 

And a closing piece of logistical advice…

“If you are also online, get a till system that integrates with your online shop, else you’ll have issues. I have those issues! My till and online shop don’t talk to each other, and so sometimes my stock management is an issue.” 

Thank you so much for sharing the story of Harriet & Rose with us, Harriet! We know this is going to be so helpful to any other ecommerce store owners thinking of taking the leap to a physical premises. We hope to get over to Jersey to visit you soon!

Tags: Store Spotlight


Hannah

Written by Hannah





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