We spoke to Cath from Sadler Jones about shopping locally and how lockdown is affecting small businesses in Barry.
HOW DID SADLER JONES START?
I moved back from London just over three years ago where I had been designing
for Paperchase. I wanted to do something similar but run my own business, this would allow me to continue my career within the industry but also live locally.
I was awarded a business start-up bursary by the Vale of Glamorgan Council which gave me the funds to set up the company, book my first trade show in London and produce my first four greeting card ranges. Since then it’s been non-stop! After my first trade show I started supplying Oliver Bonas, TK Maxx and Homesense, which was a great launch for the business. I’m now selling in several high street shops, including John Lewis, Selfridges and Anthropologie plus lots of nice independent shops all over the world.I’m lucky to supply two great shops locally, Annie & Lolo in Barry and Not Socks Again in Penarth.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FROM STARTING THE BUSINESS TO BEING IN THOSE BIG NAMES?
Once I was awarded the money I spent about 6 months designing, planning and developing the brand. I did my first trade show in June 2017 and within a month I was selling to high street shops, it was a quick turnaround!
DID YOU HAVE TO LEARN QUICKLY?
It was very quick. I had experience but suddenly I was dealing with finance, large print runs, factories, fulfilment and logistics. It’s definitely a learning curve! I don’t think I realised how many new skills I would have to learn and that I would be spending much more time managing operations than designing. Essentially, my business is design led and that’s what attracts new clients initially, but it’s definitely logistical skills that propel my business and encourage good relationships with my buyers. It’s been a lot of hard work with lots of late nights! WHERE DOES THE NAME SADLER JONES COME FROM? My surname is Jones and my mum’s maiden name is Sadler. My mum’s side of the family were always based in Penarth and owned a few shops locally, my grandad was a greengrocer and my great grandad was a fishmonger. The shops always used the Sadler name so it felt right to give it a place within the brand...and it made my grandma very happy!
WHERE ARE YOU BASED IN BARRY? My office is behind Academy Espresso in the BSC, I love it! I used to spend lots of time down here as a kid (usually at the beach!), so it feels great to be back in the area. I love being able to go for coastal walks at lunchtime or for a dip at Jackson’s Bay on a sunny day. Barry has changed so much recently, it’s such a good time to be based down here and I am SO excited for the Goodsheds to open right across the road!
WOULD YOU HAVE YOUR OWN SHOP? I would like to one day but it would definitely have to be at the right time. In the meantime, it’s great to be based locally. I was worried about moving back to this area from London but I absolutely love being back here. The business has allowed me to meet so many new local people and make great friends for life. For the online part of the business, the support I get from people in South Wales is amazing. You want to shop small, but you also want to shop Welsh. I think we’re quite proud of who we are and what we do in this area.
HOW HAS LOCKDOWN AFFECTED YOUR BUSINESS? It’s had a huge effect on my business as obviously my high street shops have had to close. I think we were all somewhat in denial about it at the start – things changed so quickly as lockdown came about! Overnight I had a huge sum of orders cancelled as warehouses and logistics ground to a halt. It’s been a bit of a hit to the business as all the stock had already been produced, but we’re hopeful we can pick up with our buyers as soon as things return to normal. I’ve definitely needed to pivot to ensure the business continues to make money so have spent the time building our online presence and expanding our website. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t had the time while focusing on wholesale, it’s actually been quite nice to have a shift in focus. At the start of lockdown I began to offer personalised handwritten messages in our greeting cards so those who couldn’t leave the house could send some love to friends and family, it really rocketed! I was writing hundreds of cards each day (and trying not to cry at every lovely message!) Since then I’ve also expanded our website offering with a new collection of gifts, homeware, beauty, accessories and jewellery. I’m sourcing products from other small businesses in the UK so it’s felt great to support them through this time also. The new products have been really popular and we’re excited to be launching new gift boxes very soon! ARE THERE ANY OTHER GOOD THINGS THAT HAVE COME OUT OF LOCKDOWN? It’s been great to see how much support there is for local businesses in our area, I really hope this continues beyond lockdown. Hopefully it will have taught people we have amazing fruit shops and butchers right here on our high street and it’s important to spend money within our local economy.
I also think it’s important that these traditional businesses have had to pivot slightly and look at modernising their business models. How can our local shops fit within our modern busy lives? It’s been great to see so many businesses getting online and offering local delivery – there is definitely a demand for this beyond lockdown. People want to spend money locally so how can we make it easy for them to do so? I think it’s important that for those with a traditional business like a butcher that not everyone does have time to visit, they will order things online. What can our local shops offer that fits in with people’s lives? They have to modernise their services, which they have definitely had to do because right now there is such a demand for it. We’re taking a big step back in time, the services that we’ve gone away from, we’re going back to. They want to spend their money locally. I hope we have learnt that lesson and can continue to do that. There is definitely a lot to learn from this. DO YOU THINK THERE ARE THINGS YOU'VE LEARNT THAT YOU’LL CARRY ON? I’ve been thinking for a while that I didn't want my business to be too reliant on one thing so it’s been great to diversify and finally spend time increasing my online sales. I think businesses will run very differently going forward and perhaps growth may lie in new areas. I’m learning to respond to my customer needs and it’s been great to see such a positive reaction to my new products.
Personally, I’ve learnt to slow down and focus on my wellbeing for a few months. I’ve really enjoyed a slower pace of life, garden workouts and making sure I get out for an hour long walk each day. I’m usually a keen traveller but I’ve really loved exploring the countryside right here on our door step. It definitely has made me appreciate our local area even more.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? Get through the rest of this crazy time! Continue working hard to ensure I still have a business at the end of this and try not to panic that wholesale has disappeared for now! I’m so excited to keep working on the website, I’ve got lots planned for new product offerings over the next few months - launching our new gift boxes will also be very exciting! Long term I feel like maybe my plans have gone off track for a little bit but I’m determined to come back stronger. https://sadlerjones.com/