Opening a shop on King Street may not seem like the most logical thing to do during a pandemic. However, Harriet Rouse has done precisely that. And successfully. Harriet shares her experience so far.
If there's one thing you can say for covid (that hasn't already been said), it's that it's changed the way we shop. From stockpiling loo roll to getting to grips with buying seasonally, admitting defeat when your sourdough fails to rise, to ordering as much as you could online through local businesses, we as an island of shoppers have definitely changed our shopping habits, and for the better. Taking on a shop lease during the height of a pandemic may seem brave, perhaps even foolhardy, but that is precisely what Harriet Rouse has done. Her shop, Harriet and Rose, is now open on King Street - her first venture into bricks and mortar.
Whilst not new to running her own business (she previously co-owned an award-winning bridal jewellery business in the UK and founded the online arm of Harriet & Rose in 2019), the step from online to physical hasn't been without its sacrifices and risks.
"I knew that I needed premises, having officially outgrown the room in our house that I used as a stock room about a year ago, but hadn't made the decision whether to go for retail or office space. Honestly, the King Street address wasn't even something I was considering until I walked in and realised how much more it would give the business."
And more is what it has given the business, initially founded online in 2019. With two floors of retail space, the ground floor is open for business, with the first floor starting to host creative workshops alongside its retail space this autumn.
"I initially started Harriet & Rose because I am truly a last-minute gift buyer. When I moved to Jersey over five years ago, I quickly realised that my late-night online shopping for gifts guaranteed to arrive the next day was a thing of the past. Island living has so many pros, but fast delivery is not one of them! I saw a gap in the market for an online gifting business that only delivered in Jersey and was founded with Jersey in mind. From working with local creatives and businesses to sourcing tide clocks that are a useful gift, I took the plunge in 2019 and launched the website."
The plan was initially for the online business to run for several years before launching a physical shop alongside the website. However, 2020 saw website traffic, demand, and the local shopping movement take off.
"It's really hard to articulate what the pandemic did for my business. I had optimised the website from the early days, but growth was very much organic and on a word-of-mouth basis. Suddenly during lockdown, people worldwide wanted to send gifts to their loved ones on the island, and it was my website that they were coming to. I ensured that I worked with local businesses where I could – my care packages contained Kota candles, locally made fudge and bath salts – and I waived all delivery charges during the time. The pandemic has been devastating for many businesses, but many new ventures have launched out of it. Whether it was out of necessity due to redundancy, or the pandemic shifting the mindset so that people finally took the plunge to launch the business they have dreamed about for years, it will have a lasting impact on the way we all work. I feel really optimistic for the future of small businesses in Jersey."
And there does indeed seem to be a tipping of the balance towards local on the island. From Jersey Skin to The Trading Point in St Lawrence, small, locally founded businesses are springing up across the island and joining the army of independent and creative businesses already thriving.
"Starting a business is not an easy option, but there are so many small businesses emerging now, and it's from the passion for wanting to do something different or offer a new product. You need that passion! Having your own business is consuming and definitely not an easy option. If you knew the hours, the late nights, the lack of social life that it would lead to, you'd probably not do it. It's one of those things that's almost best to go into a little blindly. When I took on the lease, I knew that I wanted to document and share the decorative process online as well – I didn't have the budget to pay to have the building decorated, so I spent many evenings and weekends decorating and cleaning myself. It's been so lovely to show my customers the process, and we all love to see the struggle and poor paint decisions that have had to be undone! I think that documenting your business journey helps people to see how hard you work. I love accounts with behind the scenes reality as opposed to the polished finished product. Things go wrong. Mistakes happen. It's exhausting, and it's OK to be honest about things not always being easy. It all makes the business better in the long term.
"I think it's human nature to want to pitch small businesses against each other, but if we come together as a community, Jersey gets more amazing businesses and products to choose from."
"Retail has to be about so much more than just buying something now. It has to be experience-based; you have to have a reason to go into a shop that isn't just needing something. From the branding to the way your shop smells and the music that you play, retailers have to be better than the internet and offer the experiential side that gets us back into St Helier."
With independent businesses breaking through onto King Street, does that mean that retail in St Helier will change on a long term basis? Harriet thinks that it will.
"The best thing about being an independent business is that you can make the rules up! You can stock something that you know will work brilliantly for Jersey that might not work elsewhere. As a small business owner, I think it's key to look at more than just making money. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but whilst you may set up a business to make a living, it doesn't mean that there isn't room to be kind. Kindness in business is so important; whether that's taking time to nurture new talent, support other businesses and share your experiences, or the discretion to see that a customer needs a compliment or even a little gift free of charge sometimes, I'm all about that.
"I think it's human nature to want to pitch small businesses against each other, but if we come together as a community, Jersey gets more amazing businesses and products to choose from. If you are founded from passion and love what you do, there's room for everyone. We all have a point of difference, and the real winners are our Jersey customers who get choice and businesses that are passionate about what they do and offer."
You can find Harriet & Rose at 71 King Street, opposite the small Boots. Visit the website www.harrietandrose.co.uk and follow @harriet_and_rose on Instagram to keep up to date on the latest offerings