We spoke to the two entrepreneurs behind The Inner Yard, Charity Nichols and Beth Cuttell. They offer a forward-thinking combination of ethical gifts, clothing, interiors and antiques, commissioning at source across the globe and selling both online and in their unique shop. Green Tulip is a separate business run by Charity Nichols and her husband, and they source and sell online. No 33 Antiques is also a separate business run by Beth Cuttell.
These business owners have both taken advantage of lockdown to clear and organise their respective businesses, re-decorating physical spaces, re-organising websites, introducing new EPOS stock accounting systems and bringing more products online.
- What is The Inner Yard?
The Inner Yard houses two businesses, ethical gift company Green Tulip run by Charity Nichols, and No 33 Antiques, run by Beth Cuttell. They combine over 35 years of retail experience and their complementary skills result in a unique assortment of products that are sourced to minimise their impact on the planet or on people – products such as antique furniture or vintage china that have had many lifetimes already; reusables such as water bottles or coffee cups that minimise the need for disposables; plastic free toiletry options such as solid shampoos; natural candles or body products; fairly traded fashion accessories, baby gifts – the list goes on! They also buy a range of stylish interiors, and simple ‘anti’ fast fashion clothing items together, focusing where possible on small suppliers and products that are made in the UK.
The Inner Yard has now re-opened its doors, having adapted to a socially distanced new world complete with an antique, re-purposed safety screen! The shop is a big space with high ceilings with ample room for customers to keep a distance. They are allowing four customers in the shop at a time and trialling a system using a sign in the window to let customers know if they can enter or not, but as a small business they can be flexible and keep trying new ideas and adapt as guidelines change.
The shop always offers a warm welcome (particularly when the wood burner is on) and helpful service as well as a good chat.
The business is part of The Old Potato Yard development in Lydeway, Devizes in Wiltshire, which also features a farm shop, coffee shop, hairdressers, florists and gallery.
- Beth’s Lockdown Story
I have decorated several rooms in my house and spent inordinate amounts of time moving, sorting and stacking furniture. We cleared a lot of things by giving them away (we left them at the end of our road) and the rest that could not be given away has been saved to go to charity shops.
I photographed hundreds of items and put them onto The Hoarde (an antiques selling platform), which unsurprisingly involved moving a lot of furniture! I painted the garden section at Kingsettle Antiques, the antiques centre where I have space, and collected and delivered furniture that I sold online.
I have emptied the barn next to my house and re-established the photographic area so I don’t have to drive to Kingsettle to photograph stock. I haven’t quite finished as I removed a wall and have yet to finish decorating. I’m looking forward to coming back to the shop for a rest!
- Charity’s Lockdown Story
I have spent most of the last 12 weeks over at my office / warehouse packing boxes and making gift sets. We sent the Green Tulip team home and just Will, my husband, and I came into the office for the first 8 weeks - packing all of the orders for our retail websites and trade business ourselves (with occasional help from the kids when we had two big containers of stock arrive from India and Bangladesh!).
Whilst it’s been hard work it has also been a pleasure seeing all of the lovely gifts people have bought for friends and family, the kind messages and care packages sent. And I’ve spotted a few of our shop customers ordering online too. Thank goodness for the lovely sunshine, which allowed for some fresh air at the end of the day with a drink in hand.
We then needed to plan how to get the team back in whilst socially distancing, and how to get the technology in place to support some working at home. We’re now settling into the ‘new normal’ with people coming and going on different days but it is lovely to have them all back.
Lockdown also gave us time to finally introduce a new EPOS stock accounting system to The Inner Yard. It is something we had looked at since last Christmas, but we have now had time to get all the products loaded on in preparation for reopening. And moving forward, with the tough economic climate we look like we are moving into, we have no doubt that the time spent setting up the new system will reap rewards, as well as make us more efficient at serving customers. It will give us much more visibility on what we sell so we can make sure that we keep our stock levels tight but in the right places, and it will help us to give our customers what they want.
So now it’s time to focus on the shop and I can’t wait to see our customers in person, and not just interact with them virtually! One of the lovely things about having a physical shop is chatting to people about their lives, what they are looking for, how we can help – and that just doesn’t happen when you sell solely online.