Shop Spotlight: Hus & Hem

I want the entire range of German Blossoming candles shown here!

I want the entire range of German Blossoming candles shown here!

Tucked away from Ledbury High St, in the aptly named Design Quarter is the fabulous Hus & Hem shop. The Swedish named (House & Home) store captivates the senses as soon as you walk in. There are walls of brightly coloured objects to draw you in and an array of deliciously scented Skandinavisk candles, with names like Carved from Glaciers, Calm of the Boreal Forest and Dawn Embers (which incredibly does actually smell just like the fire the morning after!). Who isn't going to stop and smell a candle called Freshness of the Seas?!

Skandinavisk & German Blossoming candles

Skandinavisk & German Blossoming candles

Hus & Hem is not your average high street home store. It is full of all sorts of beautiful things you have never seen before. I asked Louise, the owner how she sources everything.

L: Regular trips to Europe to shows, but equally shopping in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Gotland, Paris and any other city I happen to be in. It’s the best way to find the hidden gems. We never stop looking.

I managed to catch Louise, en route to the shows in Stockholm and Paris, on one of these buying trips and asked her to share her story with us, and of course, how serendipity played her part. I always like to ask this question as she very often has a hand in things!

Beautifully displayed Danish non-drip candles

Beautifully displayed Danish non-drip candles

L: Hus & Hem opened on 1st May 2009 – just as the UK had plunged into a recession! It was a conscious decision to start the business at this time – the reasoning for this? if it works when times are tough then it can only get better! You also have to work harder and smarter, it makes you appreciate that every penny counts. It also helped that we opened on a shoestring and didn’t borrow (I originally opened with my best friend Jill, Jill sold her share of Hus & Hem to me back in 2014.)

K: Did serendipity play a part in you going into business and opening a shop at all?

L: It did indeed! An appointment was made on a chilly day in March 2009 to see an estate agent in Ledbury about the possibility of any shops coming up. The appointment was for 2.30pm, with a little time to spare I wandered into a little shop that was called The Orangery, it had always been one of my favourite little shops, a great location, perfect size, and off the High Street, all the requirements that were on the wish list. I walked around the shop and just as I was leaving, Mandy the owner, mentioned that sadly they were closing the shop! I said nothing and promptly went over to the appointment with the estate agent. I said I had found my perfect shop and what should I do. Go and tell them he said! We arranged to have a drink in a local pub that evening and Hus & Hem was born (well not quite Hus & Hem as it was nameless at that point). We had found a shop in 20 minutes and we opened in 8 weeks!

K: What do you look for when picking a supplier?

L: I am rather impulsive! I often have that moment of ‘I want it’ I stick with this gut instinct! It may be slightly off the wall, and often the girls will say no we are not having that (we tend to buy as a group, myself Lily (Louise's daughter) and Lucinda in various combinations. It can be easier buying as a group as obviously if we all love it then it’s a definite order) Sometimes I just have to have something, they both object and I buy it anyway, they are often the gems! And obviously I can say ‘I told you so’ only when it does sell really well, if it doesn’t I just say nothing! I have to really want it; we never have anything in the shop just because we think we can sell it. If I am quibbling whether to order then it’s a no.

All the colours!

All the colours!

K: Can you tell us about your brand ethos and what is important to you?

L: We have to love it - Simple as that! It simply has to make the heart sing. I could go on for hours about this question...

K: How do you get around a common problem in retail and beautifully merchandise when you have overstock?

L: We try not to overstock. We order small and often on the majority of products. We like to have new stock arriving regularly to keep the stock fresh and customers coming back, there is nothing worse than seeing the same stock in the same place month after month, this stops that problem, it also helps when you have a good relationship with your supplier! Many have become good friends.

Beautifully merchandised stock. I find this display very restful to look at.

Beautifully merchandised stock. I find this display very restful to look at.

K: Why is being off the high street important to you?

L: Rent and rates are cheaper!! Only joking, well sort of! We are so lucky we were offered our building at breeze block stage, we could configure it to our own spec – how often would you ever have this happen in a rural Market town. A brand new shiny building that even looks Scandinavian from the outside. The original little shop was also up an alleyway, 16 paces off the high street, it worked there, we reasoned the new one would too, although it was much further off the high street, it had a great approach, and more importantly you could see it from the pavement. People often say they are drawn up, I like this, they discover us and they have to put in a little bit of effort, they have to make a conscious choice to keep on walking up the alleyway. This makes customers feel as if they have discovered us, I think they like that. We can also have our doors open in the summer without the noise of the traffic; you just hear the birds singing.

K: What do you wish you had known when you first started Hus & Hem? What piece of advice would you give yourself back then?

L: Now I found this question really difficult. I can’t think of anything. I just asked Lucinda the question and she came up with ‘until you totally give up you don’t really know’. When you run your own business you just change something if it doesn’t work, I honestly can’t think of anything of any importance, obviously there’s loads of small things like paying in different currencies and the amount of paperwork you have to do on a day to day basis. Luckily I quite like paperwork!

I love Louise's attitude of starting "against the odds" during a recession, knowing that if you can survive that, you'll be just fine! Next time you are in Ledbury be sure to pop in and try some of the INCREDIBLE salted caramel Lakrids liquorice sweets! They also have an online store with their beautiful homewares helpfully showcased by room and by brand, so you can shop to your hearts content!

Hus & Hem, The Design Quarter, 12 High Street, Ledbury, Herefordshire, HR8 1DS, UK

All images taken by Katie Spicer & may not be reproduced without permission.

Shop Spotlight: The Goring Grocer

Trained chefs Stuart & Caroline Pierrepoint were moving to Dorset. They had sold their cafe in the beautiful village of Goring-on-Thames, next to the North Wessex Downs and were ready for the off! Their house sale fell through at the last minute, which serendipitously turned into them buying an empty shop in the same village and creating their third business and foodie heaven, The Goring Grocer, in November 2015.

Lauren serving behind the counter

Lauren serving behind the counter

It is a total delight on the senses, as everything is beautifully merchandised and the food all looks and smells delicious. Owner Stuart creates the delicious food on site every day, along with the talented Alison. As you can watch them creating at the back of the shop, it is easy to ask them what they are making and whether things are gluten free (in my case, as I am Coeliac!). They are always open to suggestions from their customers.

The Goring Grocer ~ Katie Spicer Lifestyle Brand Photography

Having been trading in the village for 16 years, they have already built up the know, like and trust factor and have a big fan base for Stuart’s cooking!

You only have to walk past the outside of the shop to know that it is definitely somewhere you want to go in. 

The visual merchandising in the shop really makes the already visually appealing products even more irresistible. Caroline says she has no background in it but being on a small budget generally makes you more creative! Once inside, you know it is definitely somewhere you will be buying something, whether for your lunch or as a gift for someone else.

You only have to walk past the outside of the shop to know that it is definitely somewhere you want to go in.
The Goring Grocer ~ Katie Spicer Lifestyle Brand Photography
The Goring Grocer ~ Katie Spicer Lifestyle Brand Photography

They have some really cool packaged products, such as the bottles from Two Cocks Brewery with real feathers on! This is entirely intentional and one of their brand values: to sell quality, interesting, beautifully packaged products from small producers in the UK.

Stuart & Caroline get their inspiration from Instagram and by reading up on products and visiting other farm shops and delis. Provenance is important to them and their customers and they pride themselves on stocking products that you wouldn’t necessarily find in supermarkets.

The power of the independent shop is back on the up!

They are open for late night shopping on Friday 2nd December and have a tasting with Neal’s Yard Dairy if you are interested in popping in. They will also be at the Goring Food Festival at the village hall from 10am until 3pm, where you can pick up a Christmas hamper or some of their delicious cheese.

If you are passing I can highly recommend their squash, red rice, quinoa, rocket, goats cheese & sun dried tomato pot for lunch, especially if you are Coeliac!

The Goring Grocer ~ Katie Spicer Lifestyle Brand Photography
The Goring Grocer ~ Katie Spicer Lifestyle Brand Photography

The Goring Grocer, 17a High Street, Goring on Thames, RG8 9AR

All images taken by Katie Spicer & may not be reproduced without permission.

Five ways to showcase your glamping site for a photoshoot

If you own a glamping site and would like photos to make it look irresistible to your customers, here are five ways you can showcase it.

  1. Tell the story - Don't just show the basics. Help them picture their whole stay with you. Capture the magic! Show the little details and the surrounding areas. These things matter to people and could sway them to book your property over another with 3 or 4 bad pictures.
  2. Prop it up - Add any props in that will help you tell your story. Lay the table ready for a romantic meal for two. Add seasonal flowers in a jar. Light candles. Showcase the al fresco dining opportunities.
  3. Remove any distractions - There might be something that fulfils a need but doesn't necessarily look good on camera. Move it! Rearrange things so that it works in the shot and helps weave the storyline. If there is something unintentional/uninteresting that draws your eye in the image, move it/cover it. Think about where you want the eye to go first in the image and make sure there are no other major distractions.
  4. Showcase your USPs - Really play up what makes you different from other similar glamping sites. Can you swim in the river? Show somebody swimming in the river! You have a solar powered open shower? Hint at somebody being in the shower! Do you go the extra mile for your customers? Tell them!
  5. Timing - Think about the best time of day to shoot it. Does it get the morning sun on the veranda? Does it have the most spectacular sunsets? Does it have different attractive features depending on the season? If possible add to your catalogue of shots with images from different times of day/seasons. Seasonal shots are fab if you want to be booked out all year round. You then need to tell a different story, one of being wrapped up together, all snug with the Autumn colours all around you and the fire on. 

Always think about how you want your customers to feel and the story you are going to tell in order to achieve that. What is your brand all about? What are your ideal customers drawn to? Think about these things and make sure you get images to capture the essence of what you stand for and why they should book with you. 

It is also a good idea to shoot more than you think you need. You always need a never ending supply of images for social media. You can get more quirky with these, like the shot of feet in the shower etc!

These images were shot on location at Shepherd Hut Holidays, Blackgrounds Farm, Chipping Warden and at the Cotswold Lavender Farm, Snowshill. Pauline and Doug have three other shepherd's huts on their idyllic Oxfordshire farm, where they train winning racehorses throughout the winter.  I discovered them on GoGlamping.

Hampton Court Flower Show 2016

The picnic and Pimms is packed, the suncream applied, camera fully charged and we are ready to go!

Every year my Mum, her friend Val and I visit the biggest flower show in the world, at Hampton Court Palace. Nobody else is allowed to come with us, because nobody else has the stamina we do. We arrive before the gates open, and are usually one of the last to leave!

It is the highlight of our year, and Val even said it was better than Christmas Day -  that is how excited we are to go. They are both very keen gardeners and I am obviously there to soak up and capture the beauty of the flowers and gardens.

Here are a selection of some of my images from last week.

In love with Chandrika Thomas' visual merchandising style on her luxury fragrance stand in the Country Living Marquee.

My favourite garden of them all was The Lavender Garden sponsored by Shropshire Lavender, with a real copper still. Designed by the very talented Paula Napper, Sara Warren & Donna King and built by Burnham Landscaping & The Landscape Consultants Ltd.

And of course I had to shoot the garden which shares a name with me, Katie's Garden, sponsored by Katie's Lymphoedema Fund. Beautifully designed by Carolyn Dunster and Noemi Mercurelli and built by Frogheath Landscapes.