Meet the boss of Berrys & Grey: 'Why I had to close my shop.'
PUBLISHED: 12:55 02 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:27 02 April 2019
She caused a stir when she closed her interiors store in the Royal Arcade to go online only but it's already proving the best decision of her life. CAROLINE CULOT spoke to Nicole Pugh of Berrys & Grey.
Visiting Nicole Pugh at her home is a soothing of your senses with the wonderful scent of her trademark room spray and a large open-plan room filled with kind of beautiful things that form the foundation of her business.
It’s monochrome style crammed with candles, striking artwork, Dior bags, faux fur throws and the word ‘Vogue’ literally in lights.
Only a bunch of pretty pink peonies, a small red personal organiser embossed with the initials NP and some eclectic art from legendary London street artist Pure Evil stray from the colour code.
This is Nicole’s sanctuary. Her very on-trend apartment in The Factory – nestled in Norwich’s industrial past – expresses her love of plants, flowers and white, which has replaced her former favourite colour, grey. And that explains the company name also inspired by Nicole’s favourite wine too, Berry Bros & Rudd.
Nicole, 33 – an only child from two Norfolk parents and who went to Fakenham High School – recently made the bold decision to close her interiors shop to operate exclusively online.
“I was reviewing it for a good six months, it was so apparent that the online was growing expedientially and I needed to take more time to look at those customers and I physically didn’t have the time because I was in the shop all day,” she said.
“The shop plateaued and there was no point in putting the profits I was making online into something that wasn’t growing. I was making 50% of my total profit online. My overheads for running a shop were 100 times higher than my online platform.”
It meant losing her staff but she’s happy as all have found new jobs and she’s hugely grateful for all the support from customers. She also has needed to build up social media – her Berrys & Grey instagram account, for example, has nearly 40,000 followers.
Analysis of her online audience also shows 93% are from London, female and aged between 20-65.
“It’s all a lesson and I have no regrets. I still have a lot of faith in my brand, the buying culture has changed so you have to change with it. I don’t think anything I’ve done is an incorrect path but it’s the evolution of retail for this specific sector,” she added.
“The biggest challenge has been getting the brand out there and for people to realise what you’re about – quality and service, it’s very hard to have your own personal life especially when you’re looked at so much on social media, but I try to be myself.
“The hardest thing is to evolve, a lot of businesses do not evolve quick enough. You have to keep changing your offering otherwise, just like fashion, you’ll become stale and boring and there are so many competitors out there who will copy you, they are in your slipstream, so you have to reinvent yourself.”
Nicole is inspired fashion-wise by actress Sienna Miller and The Saturday’s Mollie King but her business role model is dad Gareth, who up to recently ran a supermarket in Cornwall with mum Gillian. Nicole actually opened Berrys & Grey in Polzeath but missed Norfolk and her friends so much, she relocated to Norwich.
”I really look up to my dad, he has the same thirst for success, has that drive which really pushes me and my parents are my best friends.
“A lot of people say running a successful business is luck but it is not luck, it’s very demanding and you never switch off no matter how much you want a day off. But I’m very passionate and everything I purchase, I love, every delivery is like Christmas.”
Nicole is now expanding the business with various projects in the pipeline. One is setting up a photo shoot and location arm of Berrys & Grey. She will be launching packages whereby people can use her apartment and another she has acquired in The Factory for styled shoots. She is busy decorating the other two bedroom apartment completely differently from her home, with dark colours, concrete and marble – art nouveau is the inspiration. She is also involved in some new collaboration in London, one with a new designer stationery range and would love to work in set design.
But, like most things, the success comes at a price. “A difficult part is I realise this could be a bit of a lonely job.” she said. “I have to make sure I see people and not just open my phone. I don’t have a partner; it’s my lifestyle. Business is so important to me I haven’t had time to focus on anything else. I’m not ruling it out if someone came along, it has to be a specific type of person and I haven’t found anyone else who can keep up with me.
“One thing I’ve learned is never compromise your worth or your brand, it’s important to be happy but you don’t need to be with someone to be happy.”