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July 1, 2024 —

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Little Perth

Bringing together flowers, coffee and homeware - all touches of her life growing up in Western Australia - Rohanna Roberts and her husband Jon, opened concept store Little Perth in the heart of Westbourne, Dorset with a laid-back, relaxed, bohemian feel...
Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset
Shelley Welti
91 Magazine online content editor,

Photography

Jake Balston
Photographer,
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Hi Rohanna, when and why did you decide to open the Little Perth stores?

During the Covid pandemic we were running a small speciality coffee shop in South Wales that was forced to temporarily close. Like many others, it gave us the time and head-space to think ahead to the future and reassess our business goals and (more importantly) decide what we wanted for our young family. Having been a freelance florist for many years, my husband and I had often talked about bringing together flowers and coffee as a concept, and the time was right for us to take the plunge and make it happen! We identified Southbourne in Dorset as the ideal location and moved in March 2021 to launch Little Perth. After an amazing first 18 months, we launched our Westbourne store at the end of 2022.

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?

I worked in the social work sector for several years, alongside honing my skills as a freelance florist. I have always had a huge passion for people, and specifically bringing people together around beautiful things – whether that be food, coffee, art, or flowers! My husband and I opened our first coffee shop in 2018 with some friends, and this gave us the ideal context to build a community in the heart of our city, but also to learn the ropes of running a small business. We learned so much, and made a lot of mistakes too, and this all put us in good shape for opening Little Perth a few years later.

How did you decide on the name?

I grew up in Perth, Western Australia and although I’ve spent the majority of my life now in the UK, Aus has always very much felt like home. My identical twin has lived in Southbourne for many years and whenever we’ve visited the area it has always reminded me of Perth –the long golden beaches, the independent stores, the amazing food, the family feel and those long summer evenings watching the waves. We often joked it was like a ‘little Perth’, so when we launched the business the name was a fairly simple choice! It’s also a nod to the incredible floral and coffee scenes in Western Australia that have influenced us so much.

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

How would you describe the interior style of the store?

Our Westbourne store is Aussie-inspired – crisp whites, terracottas, clean lines and a mature evolution from our first store.

Tell us about the range of products you stock

Primarily we are a florist so the first thing you’ll see when you come into our Westbourne store is our floral display laden with beautiful stems. We offer one Florist’s Choice bouquet design each week in a variety of sizes. Changing our designs regularly keeps things interesting for our customers, allows us to be design-led (rather than customer-led in our arrangements – controversial!) and means we are getting closer all the time to being a zero-waste florist.

Alongside our flowers we offer an amazing speciality coffee menu, working with an ever-changing list of roasters, and cakes from Patisseries TJ Pattinson. We’ve also got a range of homeware products and gifts on the shelves – vases, plants, jewellery, picnic blankets, cards – loads to browse!

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

A main focus of the store is flowers and coffee – can you tell us more about these offerings?

We walked into a florist one day and it struck us that for a product that is so wild, beautiful, unique and ever-changing, the floral retail experience in the UK has become stale, awkward and often intimidating. Buying flowers should be a magical experience! It should invoke wonder. It should rekindle memories of romances, of poignant life events, of long summer days and of holding something uniquely beautiful in your hands. The buying experience should be as wonderful and inspiring as the stems on display. The idea for Little Perth was born not long after!

We wanted to create a space where our guests can sit back and watch our floral designers work their magic, whilst sipping on the best possible coffee, enjoying great music, eating tasty food, and chatting away with our team or other guests. Coffee shops have become the new social centres of our communities in recent years, so we wanted to create one with beauty and creativity right at the centre of it!

What does a ‘normal’ day look like?

My days begin with the chaos of getting three young kids up and ready for the day! We live above our Southbourne store, so the chaos is soon calmed by the smell of coffee and fresh pastries wafting up the stairs. Bliss! On flower delivery days I’ll be liaising with my amazing floral teams in both stores ensuring the quality is good, nothing’s missing, and that our bouquet designs for the week are set. Then the fun begins as we start to create our bouquets, chat to customers, and see what orders are coming in! Flowers are so personal, so we love hearing stories all day every day of who the bouquets are going to.

We have a super-creative team so we’ll be shooting content for our socials throughout the day, and keeping our stores fun and vibrant places to visit! In the afternoons our delivery runs go out across the local area, and this is usually my time to catch up with admin tasks, look into new products, and most importantly spend time with my 3-month old before the school run! A lot of our wedding work is done in the evenings to ensure maximum freshness when the bouquets are collected first-thing, and we also offer an array of floral and coffee evening workshops in the stores too.

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

How do you choose your wares/ stockists?

We stock the brands that we love personally – from the coffees and wines we drink at home, the jewellery we love to wear, to the homeware items that we’d want on our shelves and walls in our apartment! This is the fun of running a small, creative business. Naturally we need to consider demand and profitability, but our customers love that we have an ever-changing array of personally-curated wares that reflect our antipodean roots. We work with other similarly-minded makers, and prioritise local artists where possible. We also love bringing our favourite Aussie brands to the UK!

Which item is your bestseller?

Our Florist’s Choice bouquets are very much our focal-point product. They take centre-stage in all our marketing, and they are the product that we are known for. Our regulars and subscribers love that every week offers something different, that we’re not afraid to break the rules in our designs, and that we use quality flowers that last well. On the coffee side we attract a lot of coffee-enthusiasts, so our baristas spend lots of time brewing on v60 and preparing coffee flights (where you get to try three different coffees side-by-side)!

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

What items are your personal can’t-live-without?

In our Westbourne store we stock the stunning Wandering Folk goods all the way from Byron Bay. I’ve used their patterned picnic blankets and cool-bags for many years and absolutely adore them! Over the summer we try and spend as much time as we possibly can on the beach with our kids, so our boot is always loaded with all the Wandering Folk essentials ready to go!

What do you enjoy most about running the stores?

Running two shops and a busy online store can be intense at times, but I do have to stop myself often and remind myself that I get to do what I love each day – arrange flowers, make beautiful things and bring joy to people’s days. All whilst sipping on the most amazing coffees (and constantly “testing” the cakes)! I also get to meet so many lovely people each day, and lots of our regulars have become great friends. Although exhausting, I also love that our kids are being raised in such a creative, community-focused and empowering environment.

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

What has been your career highlight (so far!)?

There have been many, but opening our first Little Perth store in the midst of the second Covid lockdown was probably the highlight. We intended to ‘soft launch’ and ease in gradually, but from the very first day we had a queue down the street that didn’t subside for a fortnight! We have found such receptive and enthusiastic communities here in this corner of Dorset who appreciate and support independent businesses, and love the concept of flowers and coffee going together! I think the sight of that queue will probably be one that stays with me forever.

What is the neighbourhood like around the Westbourne store? Do you have a community of independent stores around you? 

Westbourne has the community-feel of a small village, with the kind of quality independents that you’d expect to find in a big city. We adore it! Locals are so proud of their high street and we were very warmly welcomed to the area – especially as it had been a little while since there had been a florist in Westbourne. It’s very much become a destination area and we love spending our days off locally – brunch at Mokka Pot, Le Petit Prince or Franco’s Yard, a browse at the quirky and unique arcade shops, a new outfit from Rose The Store, coffee and flowers from Little Perth (of course), then chips from Chez Fred down on the gorgeous Alum Chine beach. It doesn’t get any better!

Shopkeeper Spotlight with Little Perth, Dorset

What do you wish you’d known before opening the store? Any advice for those thinking about opening their own shop?

We opened the Westbourne store just as the rising energy costs were hitting the UK followed by the cost-of-living crisis. More than ever we couldn’t just rely on ‘a great reputation’ or ‘a new shop buzz’ – as people’s spending habits changed overnight and independents were hit really hard. We had to know our numbers inside out, build contingencies into our budgeting, create new products to fall within the ‘affordable luxuries’ price bracket, and opt for cash-flow over some of the interior plans we initially had. Had we known what was about to hit the UK we may have decided against the store, but I’m SO glad we didn’t. We’ve learned some of our biggest lessons in business from that period, and we’ve come out the other side with an established customer-base, and a much stronger business model.

As for advice – be led by the needs of the community rather than excitement for your own brand. We knew that Westbourne already had some lovely brunch spots so we didn’t try and replicate our Southbourne store in a new location. We prioritised the need for a florist and that was reflected in our store design, our marketing and our staffing.

13 Seamoor Rd, Westbourne, Bournemouth

littleperth.com

@littleperthuk

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