Hi Natalie, how would you describe your business to someone discovering it for the first time?
Step inside ROSE the store’s sun-kissed interior and you instantly feel transported. With a curated mix of consciously sourced wares for both you and your home, ROSE the store serves as a warm, inviting space for the bohemian inspired, country-meets-coast individual and our brands embody the spirit of effortless, laid-back living, reflecting a slow and carefree way of life.
Our bricks-and-mortar shop is located in the beautiful Westbourne area of Bournemouth on the Dorset coastline, the boutique is ideally placed to spend a day soaking up the salty ocean air on one of the beautiful award-winning beaches of Poole Bay and Sandbanks and discovering the delightful independent shops, restaurants and cafes that Westbourne has to offer. The team at RTS is passionate about creating a magical, relaxed and personal shopping experience for our customers and we are delighted to offer a slice of the ROSE the store magic online, too.
What did you do before setting up your business?
I was running my other boutique in Salisbury (OSOboutique). My mum and I have had this store for 11 years now, however I’ve always lived on the south coast and commuted up to Salisbury daily, often six days a week which was roughly around two and a half hours of travelling – sometimes three – a day! Prior to this I was a graphic designer with many years retail and hospitality experience.
What inspired the idea of setting up your business?
In truth, I was always so busy with the original shop (OSOboutique) that I always daydreamed of setting something up closer to home, but never had the brain capacity or time to really think how I could make it work with my long commute on top. I had originally looked at opening a shop years ago in Bournemouth, but having grown up in the thriving market town of Shrewsbury, the different style of shopping habits in a much bigger place such as Bournemouth back then encouraged me to set up my first shop in another market town with a similar feel to Shrewsbury.
The onset of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 brought with it unprecedented challenges for business owners, but for me in particular, it also brought time. It was during our first three months of enforced closure and a time of self-reflection that I took the opportunity to explore new avenues and I began to see the potential of this ‘passion project’ which had been niggling at me for years. When I opened the Salisbury store I was only 25 years old, and had learnt an immense amount. By the time of the pandemic, I was thirsty for a new challenge and a new brand, and something that was much more aligned to my interests and values 10 years later on. I always struggled to find the kind of places that my friends and I wanted to shop at locally to where we live, and after testing the waters by setting ROSE the store up online initially, I was spurred on to take that leap of faith and bring my vision to bricks and mortar!
What is the ethos behind your business?
With half of my family being Australian and living on the south coast right next to the ocean, my life is filled with a love of the salty ocean air, of laid back living, and of beautiful, earthy home comforts. In satisfying my own vision and through my continual love of retail it’s become more and more apparent that there’s a community of like-minded souls all around me here in the UK who yearn for long sun-kissed days and crave the kind of free-spirited, bohemian-inspired lifestyle shops so often found on the shores of Byron Bay and California.
ROSE the store aims to capture the nature of those feelings and convert them to a way of UK living, grounded in raw textures, rugged beauty and modern silhouettes with a strong emphasis on environmental and social respect.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
I love, love LOVE independent shops and am constantly searching out new boutiques and stores online. I find loads of creative inspiration in looking at what some of my favourite cafes and shops are doing across the world – especially when it comes to different climates and cultures and trying to work out how to translate those ideas so that they work in England!
Whenever I need a little creative boost I’ll head over to some of my other favourite indie-rich towns and always come back feeling inspired and refreshed with a load of new ideas for ROSE the store.
Tell us about your curation – how do you source your collections?
This is a HUGE process for me. I’m always the LAST person to submit my buying choices for the season, having painstakingly thought about every single detail and compared items over and over again – there is so much that goes in to it – for one thing, the merchandising space in store is fairly small so I have to think really carefully about which pieces to choose so as not to overload the space and to ensure that all of the collections can ‘breathe’ and sit well together visually.
Price is also extremely important and we try really hard to stock a range of pieces that balance cost and quality while retaining our brand ethos of laid-back, country-meets-coast style. I’m always hunting for new and off the radar brands, and whilst it would be delightful to fill the shop with Australian-inspired linen and cotton ranges, I’m also very mindful that the reality of where we live requires winter warmth! It’s definitely a juggling act trying to tick all the boxes on my curation list, with the added complication of import costs due to Brexit being another factor that really has a bearing on my buying decisions.
How did you approach the design of your space?
My husband and I built the shop entirely ourselves. I knew straight away that I wanted the space to be warm and inviting and to incorporate lots of organic shapes and natural textures. To my husband’s dismay, my insistence on arch shaped doorways was non-negotiable, but it was absolutely integral to the feel of the space and the brand. I was also very keen to have a simple, neutral space so that my products could do the talking. I’d learnt over the years that certain wall colours in shops would be great one season but totally impractical with the next season’s colour palette!
Social media was also very important to me, so I wanted to ensure the shop space was multi-functional as a boutique but also a filming space, with deliberately no fixed clothing rails or shelving so that out of hours we are able to quickly move our tiny space around and convert parts of the shop to a studio for filming content and photographing stock.
Tell us about your location and community…
The Westbourne area of Bournemouth on the Dorset coastline is literally a 10-minute walk from some of the best beaches in the area, so it’s perfect for the two very best activities of all time: shopping and beaching! We have a very loyal and dedicated customer base with a real range of ages.
When I first opened the doors of the shop I was completely unprepared for just how much of a success the new store would be and how many people were so thrilled to have this kind of store on their doorstep. I spent that first season manically trying to keep up with stock demand, which was an extremely nice problem to have!
As well as our fantastic local customers we also have lots of tourists and holiday-home owners, who not only come back to the store every time they make a trip to the coast but have also been integral in supporting us from afar and choosing to shop with us online. This helps immensely when the season quietens down for us over the winter.
How has your business evolved since you began, and what was the journey?
The business has definitely evolved. For instance, when initially opening a new store from scratch it was tricky to explain the concept to attract exactly the brand mix that I wanted, as the brands themselves want to ensure that they are represented in the right way, and what I was trying to create was quite niche in terms of UK fashion retailing. But as we’ve evolved it has been easier to curate the style and mix of brands that work with our ethos and more and more we are being approached by brands who want to have a presence particularly in ROSE the store.
Is the online community important to your work?
From the get-go an online presence was integral to the success of this business. Having the experience of another shop based in a town centre location surrounded by all the other independent and high street retailers, I was very aware of how different trade could be in a ‘district’ location where people would specifically have to make the choice to go to, over just heading to the city centre.
Westbourne has always carved out the main indie scene in the area and is just getting better and better in my opinion. It’s just the right size and is bursting with loads of lovely, unusual shops and places to eat. People who visit Westbourne come here specifically looking for independent businesses as opposed to the generic shops and restaurants found elsewhere in the area – it’s been amazing hearing just how many people have found out about the shop via our efforts on social media – this really drives people to come and visit the area.
Working as an independent store owner – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
SO many joys and SO many challenges! Having owned my own retail stores for over 11 years, the biggest challenge I now have is navigating the effects of Brexit and all that comes with it. There has been a huge new workload and financial commitment to operating as an independent store in a world post-Brexit that wasn’t there previously.
Joys are daily – I have such gratitude to people supporting what we are trying to do. We consistently receive lovely praise and compliments about the shop experience, and this just makes everything worthwhile… especially when you’ve spent five hours on the phone to UPS trying to prove that an import bill was already paid weeks ago!
How do you approach marketing and PR?
We are lucky enough to have some key influencers who have found the shop organically and spread the word of RTS out of pure appreciation of the shop – this has been an amazing form of marketing for us. Again, a lot of our customers have sought us out after seeing our social media and liking and sharing the things we do with their friends.
I also think that having everyone in the ROSE the store team showing up on social media is really important to our marketing – customers can already feel a connection with all of us who work in the store before they have even visited and we feel this brings a really friendly and approachable feel to a boutique shopping experience.
Favourite makers or products that you sell?
This changes all the time but currently I am loving the incoming collection of Rhythm, from Australia, who are really expanding across the world and finding their footing in the northern hemisphere, which is super-exciting. Free People always offer something a little bit fun and quirky, and their collections drop in our store monthly so there’s always something fresh and new!
The Maison Hotel SS24 collection is also INCREDIBLE this year… all those gorgeous 70’s feels! We’ve got loads of new exciting things in store for the season ahead – I can’t wait to share it all!
What have been your business highlights so far?
I really did not know what to expect when I opened this store and the sheer onslaught of those first four months of success was absolutely mind-blowing. It really made me feel like what I was trying to achieve was going to work and to trust in my instincts and judgement.
Also, being approached by 91 Magazine has to be a bit of a highlight as I love what this magazine does and I really rate the other businesses featured in this publication!
What does your ideal day off look like?
Summer! A run with my husband and dog followed by a beach breakfast picnic packed in the backpack, and a swim in the ocean, then a few hours reading a book, or if the wind is up, heading out for a windsurf or sail. Back home to pick up supplies and meet friends back on the beach for a BBQ dinner… I’m just about to have a baby though, so I’m sure my ideal day off is about to change in a big way!
Any good advice for aspiring store owners?
Know your vision and get it right from the start. First impressions are so important, so it’s far better in the long run to hold off opening a new business until you’re ready to, rather than rushing to get the doors open in the short term. The other piece of invaluable advice that someone once told me – especially when you’re starting out – is to keep your overheads low. Having retained successful businesses through recessions, Novichok (oh yes, remember that one!), Brexit, Covid, and the cost of living crisis, I really feel that having the ability to ‘scale back’ when times are tough can really help to make your business adaptable to an unpredictable climate.
Lastly, obviously – love what you do!
What does the next year hold for you?
After having ‘shop babies’ for so long and being completely absorbed by them, the change in my life in having a human baby is going to be a huge transition for me and I know I need to learn to step back for at least part of this year! I am lucky to have an amazing team of inspiring, capable women at both ROSE the store and OSOboutique who will be manning the fort whilst I take a little time off, and I’m super-excited to welcome and implement some new ideas from them into the business – their enthusiasm for the brand and what we do is infectious!