Mrs Moore’s adventures from the City to Wonderland
Ana Moore deserves to be grinning like a Cheshire cat. Two years after setting up her vintage homewares business after a 25-year career in the City her products are not only selling in London but also in New York, Paris, Rome and elsewhere.
Based in the village of Chipperfield near Hemel Hempstead Mrs Moore’s Vintage store sells fine bone china, stationery and accessories featuring the vintage themes of Alice in Wonderland and Metamorphosis.
Ana set up the business when she lost her job after 18 years, which gave her the incentive to do something that involved her own ideas. Despite sometimes wishing in the early days that she had a pay cheque coming in she has not looked back. She works alongside Mr Moore (husband Kevin) and two 18-year olds who come in to help part-time with packing.
Mrs Moore’s products are sold both directly from the website and to the trade. The biggest coup was gaining a listing in Liberty and the ranges can also be found in three branches of Fenwick, Boswells in Oxford and lots of independent shops.
The decision to explore the possibility of selling overseas came following a chance meeting at a trade fair. Ana says: “A year in we were chatting to someone at a fair who told us about UK Trade & Investment and their Passport to Export programme. This really helped out and has been great.”
Ana decided to aim for the US initially, particularly with the Alice range. She worked with UKTI International trade advisor Gary Shiels, who saw the potential for export immediately: “We introduced Ana and Kevin to our Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) and helped them with some funding towards their exhibition stand and costs at the New York Now Show (NYNOW, the Consumer & Industrial Goods exhibition).
They also worked very closely with our US Consulate team who cover the retail & luxury sector to arrange an event (under the OMIS scheme) leading up to the NYNOW show. Press, bloggers and retailers were invited to an Alice afternoon tea at the Kings Carriage House – an elegant New York institution inspired by a European manor house – with Mrs. Moore’s Vintage Store to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland and to showcase their fine bone china teacups and accessories. “This was a very successful event, leading to a number of new orders,” says Gary.
Ana and Kevin met a potential distributor at the New York Now show and they hit it off. Although the distributor was unable help at the time due to a clash of interests when the official opportunity arose they jumped at the chance.
Ana said: “Alice in Wonderland is obviously well known and seen as being very English and whimsical. This has been followed by the Metamorphosis range, which they see as “eccentric and very British.”
The most popular products for the US are anything to do with the Cheshire Cat, including plates, mugs and cups & saucers as well as Alice. The first order has also just gone to Paris (a shop whose buyer saw the range in Liberty) and a second to Rome where they particularly like Alice, the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit.
That’s not all. They are also selling to shops in Canada, Taiwan and Australia. To help with this expansion the company also undertook an Export Communications Review (ECR) with UKTI, which helped them to develop their website and external communications from an international perspective.
It was the quintessentially English appeal of the ranges that encouraged Ana to ensure that the products were not only designed in England but also made here.
“We had to knock on a few doors in Stoke-on-Trent before finding someone able to manufacture our white ware – something that many similar companies have manufactured abroad,” Ana said.
With the export market in mind Mrs Moore is now developing an ‘Alice in Londonland’ range. She says: “We’ve got Alice – White Rabbit at Big Ben, Alice at Buckingham Palace and the Red Queen will, of course, be at the Tower of London.”
Keeping it in the family, Ana does the designs – all based on the original John Tenniel illustrations – with her cousin. They are also now moving into more bespoke designs including working with the British Library and National Theatre for Alice in Wonderland themed activities. This is another area they hope to explore in New York.
While around 30 packages a day (a mixture of trade and retail) were sent out around the world in the run up to Christmas, after two years in business Mrs Moore finds that it’s not a particularly seasonal business. “We were expecting it to quieten down in January last year but we stayed busy.”
This year the company is setting its sights on the Far East, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, and has already this month taken orders from a distributor in Japan and a tea shop in China.
It now has an agent based in the UK with offices in Hong Kong who has been helping Mrs Moore secure new customers. They have set about doing UKTI East’s Next Steps programme. Even more reasons to grin like a Cheshire Cat!