How would you describe Berylune?
Berylune is an independent lifestyle shop based in Leamington Spa. We have always refused to be pigeon-holed into a ‘type’ of shop – we sell the things we like, a smorgasbord that has changed significantly in the nine years we’ve been open, and will likely continue to change! We pride ourselves on having something for every budget – from a pocket money purchase to a substantial homewares investment – all of which is carefully chosen by us. We used to call ourselves ‘the pint-sized department store’!
What’s the story behind the name?
‘Berylune’ is a character in an early Shirley Temple film called ‘The Bluebird’. It’s filmed in both black and white, and colour – it was a response to the success of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, however it was a complete flop! Berylune’s character is a fairy that helps the main characters find the bluebird of hope. We liked the name and it felt apt for a gift shop… that said, we were due to open in two weeks and the sign had not yet been ordered, so there was a bit of pressure to make a decision!
What did you do before setting up Berylune?
There are three of us behind Berylune; Zoë Sharp, Amy Barnes, and me – Emily Davies. Amy ran her own sandwich round and had multiple units selling vintage in antiques centres, Zoë was a librarian, and I did accounts!
What inspired the idea of setting up your business?
We hadn’t met Zoë at that point, so it was just Amy (my sister) and me. We had started selling our mixture of vintage and up-cycled products at Christmas markets, our ultimate dream being to open a shop. No-one locally was selling what we did, and we didn’t feel like our tastes were being catered to by retailers in the area. Opening a shop felt like an itch we really needed to scratch.
I was aware that I really should be working for myself – I’d spent a good few years helping build someone else’s business. I learnt a lot, but ultimately my efforts were not for my own benefit. Amy is eight years younger than me and hadn’t got to the ‘mortgage and significant financial commitment’ stage of her life, and was ready to focus her efforts on a bigger challenge.
We knew we wanted to work together, we’ve always been close despite (or perhaps because of?) the age gap. It’s a working relationship that works very well for us; when Zoë came along, her skills seemed to fill the gaps we needed. Seven years later, all three of us are still the best of friends and our team is really strong due to this solid foundation of complementary skills.
What is the ethos or values behind your business?
We don’t trade with only profit in mind, in fact we give 10 per cent of our profits to charity, we pay the living wage, and we focus on Berylune being a thoroughly pleasant place to work (we have a staff snack bar, there is always fruit for people to help themselves to, and we keep our fridge stocked with drinks!). We think this comes across in our shop and on social media; it’s completely genuine, we all love being here and we know our team feel the same way.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
We love to shop! The hardest thing about lockdown has been that we haven’t been able to visit other shops for inspiration, both domestically and further afield. When any one of us goes away, there is always a huge show-and-tell when we get back! We’re always excited to see how other retailers are doing things – even if what they sell is completely dissimilar to our own range (hmm, that’s an interesting way to display goldfish…). We also trawl Instagram, Pinterest and magazines for inspiration, but that’s less fun than getting out and about.
How do you source items for Berylune?
It starts and ends with our own homes and our own wants. If we find something we’d like for our houses, we’ll often then have a look at the brand, check no-one else locally stocks it before getting in touch for pricing etc. There is literally nothing inside Berylune that one, two or all three of us wouldn’t want to take home and enjoy. In fact, we often do. The shop has really grown with us for this reason. Gifting items are similarly sourced – we have to work really hard to find things to buy each other for Christmas, usually from smaller makers at craft markets or other independent shops; these chosen gifts often end up on our ‘want’ list to be stocked at Berylune. If one of our other halves happen to gift us something and we end up stocking it, they think it’s the ultimate compliment to their taste!
How did you approach the design of your space?
We just wanted a light and airy canvas to fill; our shop fittings are a mixture of cheap flea market finds, pricier antique purchases, and Ikea. We wanted to be able to move everything around easily, so we could change our displays or install a new shop-able window display as often as we’d like. No pricey built-in display units, we are far too fickle!
Describe your location and community…
Leamington is lovely! It’s lively, there is usually something going on. We are just over an hour from London by train, and half an hour from Birmingham. It’s a welcoming and varied community. Within Leamington, we’re a stone’s throw from the main shopping parade. We have a lot of local footfall but hope that visitors from further afield will have no trouble finding us!
Has your business evolved since you began?
The type of stock has really evolved with our personal tastes; we have always appreciated good design, our love of vintage pieces stems from this. We don’t have as much time to source older items to resell as we used to, mostly our flea market finds are shop fittings these days. We hope we’ll get chance to do this again someday!
We opened in 2012, so whilst we had Facebook then, Instagram was in it’s infancy and easy website platforms such as Shopify didn’t have integrated POS (till software). So much has changed! Literally half of our business is online now, and since we moved to much larger premises in 2019, all our stock is under one roof.
Not everything is always out on display, but we rotate it regularly, which means our local customers are treated to ever-changing displays and an engaging shopping experience. This keeps them popping in! This marriage of physical and online sales worked a treat for us during the pandemic – it meant we were able to shift many of our front of house staff to back of house. We gained heaps of new followers and online shoppers that we hope will come back to us again and again.
Is the online community important to your work?
Absolutely, as our sales are 50/50 in store and online. Instagram helps our online followers get to know us and our story. Our joy at what we do is shared on the backdrop of our actual retail shop.
Working as independent store owners – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
We genuinely love coming to work every day. We really are a family. Our biggest challenge is always Christmas – we have to ramp up capacity and you never really know how you’re going to do it. Many of our orders were placed as early as March, we are mostly done by May – it’s three or four months of hard grind. You go into it terrified that what you chose months ago won’t sell, then when it starts selling, you’re terrified you’re going to run out completely and have an empty shop for the last couple of weeks! Those worries have never come to fruition, thankfully (touch wood). We have never needed a heavy January sale, nor have we ever run out completely!
How do you approach marketing and PR?
In a haphazard and inconsistent manner! We send e-shots when we have something exciting to share. We do all our own photography in-house and we spend a good chunk of time producing reels etc; the investment is mostly in staff/wages rather than paid for promotions. The only print advert we run is in 91 Magazine!
Favourite makers or products at Berylune?
We all love our plants – they add atmosphere to the shop and we only sell them to locals, not online. We love our dried flowers, too, we wrap them all here and making up mixed bunches is fun. We all have a different bit of the shop we take ownership of, so everyone will have their own favourite!
What have been your business highlights so far?
Opening weekend at the new shop. Our local community were so excited for us and super supportive. We had a preview party the night before and it was all just better than we could have imagined.
What does your ideal day off look like?
Zoë’s would be reading. Amy’s would be pottering around her house, making, painting or planting something. Mine would be a day shopping in a small town I haven’t visited before (a busman’s holiday, I know!). We also spend a lot of our down time together!
Any good advice for aspiring store owners?
Just go for it! All the best things in life are a bit scary at first. If you manage to negotiate a free rental period, don’t waste it on fitting out your shop – get it done and get open. It’s money you won’t get back! And have a website, even if it’s small. We use Shopify as the stock in-store on our till system and online is all integrated. You could just pick things to make live on your website that are easy to pack and send, but if you keep it in mind as you set up your shop, it’ll be easier to increase your online sales later on.