Case Study: From new home to top homewares brand

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to buy contemporary British homeware?

Vicky White did when she bought a cottage in Bedfordshire and found herself searching high and low for quality, well-made items to bring a touch of true Englishness to her home. But all she could find were pieces that were a little too old for her, when what she needed was something that was more modern – but in keeping with the history of her property.

Luckily, Vicky worked as Head of Marketing for designer icons Jaeger and Aquascutum. Combined with her degree from the London College of Fashion and an eye for beautiful and superbly crafted products, she was in an ideal position to fill the gap she had found in the market.

“It gave me the idea for a General Store selling a wide range of beautiful gifts and co-ordinated homeware, both old and new,” she explains.

The next step was to get the new concept off the ground. Vicky researched her target customers to help develop the look and feel for the brand, before hiring a product development specialist to help create the Plum & Ashby range.

It was hard work, but in time they devised a high-end offering of textiles, cookware, distinctive leather goods, artisanal ceramics and stationery – all inspired by clean country decor, vintage finds and the adorable unofficial brand ambassador, Bertie the Fox Terrier.

An immediate success that led to growth

The Plum & Ashby range was an immediate success. In September 2012, Vicky left the corporate environment to work full time on her new enterprise. Exhibiting for the first time at the East London Design show that Christmas, she was immediately approached by major buyers who loved her wares. Soon afterwards she exhibited at the HOME Trade Show, the UK’s definitive homewares and accessories buying event. She got their first wholesale order within 10 minutes.

It wasn’t long before Plum & Ashby products were available in over 30 independent stores across the country, including flagship brands like House of Fraser and Anthropologie. It’s fair to say that the brand quickly case a spell on wholesalers and customers alike, and within months the company was rewarded by a nomination as ‘Best British Brand’ in ELLE Decoration British Design Award. “ELLE approached us,” recalls Vicky. “It was amazing to be recognised among established British brands less than a year after launching!”

The press were also quick to heap praise on the young firm. Homes & Gardens wrote that “Every so often, a shop comes along where you, literally, want to buy everything in it. This is exactly what happened when we discovered Plum & Ashby”. Over at Ideal Home, Alice Humphrys enthused: “Their presentation is uber stylish with clean branding, muted colours and lovely products too.”

Structuring the business right from the beginning

Faced with the challenge of building a fast-growing business. Vicky needed expert accountancy help from the outset – but was introduced to THP by one of our existing clients.

“THP gave me lots of help in the early days about how the business should be structured,” explains Vicky. “Planning ahead in that way was really helpful. It was good to have Tim Housden providing independent input when we created the business structure.”

Ongoing: Profit and loss forecasts and new markets

Now Plum & Ashby are on the road to success, THP also provides the firm with ongoing services. “Going forward they help us with general accounting and set up our profit and loss forecasts,” Vicky says. “Kirsty Demeza has been a great help and I really feel that THP are accountants who really want to understand your business and be part of its success. I enjoy dealing with them – it feels like a long term relationship.”

With a stellar start to the enterprise, what are Plum & Ashby’s future plans? “Our main priority is to grow the wholesale business,” explains Vicky. “We will also be refining our strategy for the website, which is where you can buy all our products at the click of a mouse. I’m analysing that sells best, so I can refine the collection. And then we’re looking to expand the product categories to including lighting, rugs, bags and possibly even furniture.”

Vicky has also discovered the new venture opens many other doors as well. “We’re involved in an interesting project at the moment to supply our products to a hotel – after we’ve worked on the interior design as well! It’s great for the portfolio, and it makes me thing we could develop special collections specifically for hotels, restaurants and pubs. It gives us confidence that Plum & Ashby can create different services to appeal to different markets – and in today’s economy that’s both a strength and an asset.”

Visit Plum & Ashby’s online shop.

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