Hi Karen, how would you describe HOOS?
We have three stores, HOOS, inHOOS and Green HOOS, and they all offer something very different in terms of curation. My first store, HOOS, opened seven years ago and it’s a lifestyle store with accessories mainly from Danish brands such as Ferm Living and HAY. We also sell skincare products, textiles, clothing, jewellery and small pieces of furniture when we can fit them in!
inHOOS is a bigger store which is also based in the West End of Glasgow and showcases a selection of furniture, lighting, textiles and accessories from the Danish design houses such as HAY, Muuto, Normann Copenhagen, Ferm Living and Fritz Hansen. We opened last April and although it has been a challenging year for retail, we are feeling optimistic for the future.
Green HOOS opened last November and it’s part of a fabulous new restaurant owned by friends. We occupy a really small space on the ramp of the building as it is a Grade 1 listed garage from 1911. We sell flowers, plants and gardening accessories.
What’s the story behind the name?
HOOS came to me when we were trying to think what to call my new shop. In Glasgow it just means your house, your Hoos!
What did you do before setting up your business?
I don’t have a background in retail – in fact I worked in the third sector for thirty years, working with vulnerable children and families in Norfolk. I have however always had an interest in design, homemaking and gardening. Having a shop has allowed me to develop and enjoy all those aspects of my life and bring something new to Glasgow, which is my home city.
What inspired the idea of setting up your business?
I think many of us enjoyed playing shops when we were children and I have a good friend who has a beautiful store in London, which I have always admired. Eventually, the seed was sown to do something completely different when I returned to Glasgow. I was sixty when I opened HOOS and I have always had lots of energy and love to do new things. Although it has been a challenge and really hard work having my own business – now including three shops – it has been a really interesting part of my life!
All three stores have developed organically, and I have taken opportunities as they have come along. I never planned to have three shops and it is definitely much more work, but I have a fabulous team of women who work with me and by now I know so much more about retail than I did seven years ago.
What are the values behind your business?
My ethos is to curate beautiful brands and to offer exceptional customer service, always going the extra mile. It is also important that the team I work with feel valued and enjoy coming to work, and we are always looking together at new ways to develop the stores. One way we do this is by offering Glasgow-based designers the opportunity to have dedicated weekends in our store spaces. This way they can showcase what they do and they are given the chance to meet their customers who may only have bought from them online before.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
It comes from all aspects of life including the environment, nature, magazines and, of course, the new collections our Danish brands offer us which are inspiring. I love going to Copenhagen to the 3daysofdesign show each June and meeting with our UK agents and the back office staff who look after our orders from brands such as Muuto, HAY and Ferm Living. It’s a joy to be part of this creative industry and I have found the whole world of retail to be a very supportive and full of lovely people.
How do you source your collections?
Our Danish brands offer new collections throughout the year, and I value my relationship with them and being a stockist. I also source products from within the UK and have beautiful textiles, jewellery, chocolate and handmade children’s toys.
How did you approach the design of your space?
My partner is an architect which has proven to be so helpful when walls had to come down and plans needed to be drawn up for tradesmen for all three shops. inHOOS required the biggest refit and is now a showroom space that feels both homely and calm, filled with sofas, dining tables, chairs, textiles and accessories.
Green HOOS occupies the smallest space – we have bi-folding doors which need to be open when the shop is open as it’s so small that all the plants and flowers have to spill outside onto the paving. Its size makes it beautiful though, and it lends itself to the plants making it feel like a jungle, and we use mirrors to make the space feel larger. I also look after the plants and arrange the flowers in the restaurant, and it feels great to be part of the community along with the coffee shop we have next door.
Tell us more about your location and community…
All my shops are in the West End of Glasgow, which has a very vibrant community including many artists and academics along with young families and university students. The Botanical Gardens is just across the road from HOOS and we have great bars and restaurants, as well as independent shopping spots. At the weekend, people come from all over the city to shop and enjoy the atmosphere.
How has your business evolved since you began?
HOOS has been around for seven years now, and due to its success and support from the local community I eventually decided to launch the other two stores in the past year. For years I used to sell lots of plants and pots at HOOS, which we had displayed both inside and outside the store. Similarly, I used to stock pieces of furniture at HOOS but occasionally felt the need for a larger space in order to fit in all the range of products our Danish brands have to offer. Both opportunities for inHOOS and Green HOOS occurred during a time of reflection around the Covid events, and I made both come to fruition.
Working as an independent store owner – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
There are lots of joys – having great colleagues who are all art school graduates and being part of their journey, being part of our West End community and seeing regular customers who love our stores and having good relationships with our agents from our Danish brands. We love serving customers and feeling proud of what we have achieved. Also, I really enjoy ordering plants and flowers for Green HOOS and now seeing Jenn from our local flower farm deliver to Green HOOS on a Friday morning really brings joy!
There are of course lots of challenges, particularly post-Brexit with all the custom fees and admin costs for each product delivery we receive from Denmark and the rest of Europe. Having three stores makes for a busy week – keeping up with invoices and orders and all the behind-the-scenes admin which keeps everything operating smoothly. I have to say, a second very different career has been hard work. Of course, all things worth having take time and energy, and as with everything in life, it’s all about good relationships.
How do you approach marketing and PR?
We have mostly been self-taught when it comes to promotion. Instagram is a great tool and all three stores are using it to show images of our day-to-day routine, including new arrivals and event launches. What is more, our collaborations with designers bring more people in who might be discovering us for the first time. We know we have launched a successful event when we keep being tagged and followed on social media. I also really trust a printed advertisement, so I aim to submit one to local magazines on a frequent basis.
Finally, since Glasgow is a relatively small city, we have noticed that word of mouth is really working for us, as long as our service and products maintain a high standard.
Any favourite makers or products that you sell?
We stock Freya Alder, who makes playful wearable jewellery which I really love. Also textiles by Wallace Sewell, and Bare Bones Chocolate made in Glasgow is delicious. And my beautiful handmade children’s toys are made by a Danish friend of mine.
What have been your business highlights so far?
Being on the cover of the Guardian Magazine a few years ago as part of Visa’s support plan for small independent businesses was amazing! Also opening inHOOS was a proud day, never having planned to open a second shop in the past. Finally, all the pop-ups and collaborations we have achieved with local designers over the years has brought a lot of joy!
What does your ideal day off look like?
If it’s summer, it is definitely having some gardening time in my small courtyard garden. Cooking for friends is another favourite thing to do. In the winter I enjoy going to Glasgow Film Theatre to watch a film. I also love shopping of course, all year round!
Any good advice for aspiring store owners?
Given my personal example, it’s never too late to start a new career. Trust your own taste, or, as I use to say, never stock products you wouldn’t purchase yourself. And most importantly, do not try to have everything figured out from the beginning. Being a store owner is a long journey and you have to remember to be open to change and opportunities that arise. Finally, always make space for leisure time – which can prove tricky if you allow yourself to dive into every single thing that arises at any given time.
What does the next year hold for you?
I will be busy with my three businesses, focusing my energy on making sure they all run smoothly. Also, we will be showcasing exciting new products and brands, and hosting inspiring events to spread the word of good design. Apart from that, I feel sure that unexpected opportunities will come our way!
HOOS, 715 Great Western Road, Glasgow
InHOOS, 91-93 Great Western Rd, Glasgow
GreenHOOS, 16 Vinicombe Street