As we move into 2024, you can almost feel a pins-and-needles tingle of potential in the air. From hopes for house prices to come down to dopamine-inducing pom poms at fashion shows; it feels like there’s a collective aspiration to make 2024 a year to be enjoyed, not just experienced.
We sat down with Bella, the Managing Director of Always Sunday, to discuss everything from the luxury homewares industry scandal she’s been uncovering to the top secret projects, exclusive events and wedding planning ideas she has in store for the year ahead. Bring on the new year!
What was the best thing you did for Always Sunday in 2023 that will make 2024 a seriously good year?
Taking on people that are better than me at doing stuff and expanding the talent of the Always Sunday team. In the summer of 2023, we took on Hannah to spearhead the online store. It had existed for a year or so already but we just didn’t have any time to add products and get it to a point that we were happy with.
She’s been working on getting all of our products online to make it more accessible, including the entire Christmas collection and redesigning the website to be more fun to shop and visually pleasing.
We then found Amy who has a background in marketing and will be the bridge between the brick-and-mortar store and the online store social media, she’s full of energy and ideas so we’re excited to see how she grows with us and she’s an excellent fit for the shop team who are all quite tight knit now.
Where do you want AS to be by 2025 and how do you think you’ll get there?
I’d like online to be as successful as the store itself, with sales but most importantly with the reach and brand awareness. I’d love Always Sunday to be featured in more magazines, we’ve been featured in places like Sheerluxe, Elle Decoration and Homes & Gardens but I’d love some recognition for what we as a brand and the team do.
What would you like to be known for?
For the relationships built with small makers, we try to see ourselves as patrons for makers so we take them on when they’re just starting out and looking to grow their brand because unlike them we can vary our profit margins when they simply can’t. We know what it’s like to be at that size and we want to support them rather than rinse them like the big brands do.
What do you mean by rinsing?
There’s a massive problem in the industry at the moment with big homeware brands who pretend to advocate small business support. They capture small makers by commissioning really big orders under the pretense of promoting them, only to change the buying price at the last minute when they know the makers have committed to the time and costs and absolutely can’t afford to say no any more without completely bankrupting themselves. It means they are forced to undersell their product.. It’s going in for a hug, putting them in a chokehold and then saying try getting out of this one, destroying the maker before they can even get started and it’s painful to see.
That’s awful! Is there any advice you’d give to small makers in their position?
Well hindsight is everything but I suppose don’t get seduced by the devil? There are absolutely smaller brands out there like us who are actively looking for collaboration projects that are mutually beneficial rather than to consume makers’ souls and steal all their ideas. We don’t have the wooing or buying power so the order might not be as big to begin with but you’ll likely get to grow together and make a stockist-friend for life.
What does your a potential new maker look like? Describe the perfect small maker dating profile.
We don’t really have a particular type of maker, it’s sort of what grabs our eye but definitely someone as local as possible and someone who’s really bloody good at what they do and loves doing it.
We’ve just started working with New Dile who create luxury leather goods, we think they’ll form quite a big part of Always Sunday going forward, and Nat found a lovely local ceramicist at the Bath Christmas Market who make some incredible iridescent candle holders that look almost alive.
Anyone you’d like to work with?
We’re looking for some UK fabric artists for sure. We already offer gorgeous silk cushions and accessories from Dagny. Nat knits our stripy hot water bottles that are a bestseller and we’d like to find someone who does really interesting and unusual work with textiles, pom poms and fringe. It's all on the horizon for us.
What does it mean to be a small business in the current climate?
It’s definitely getting harder, the creative renaissance of ten years ago seems to have slowed. There are fewer creatives being able to support themselves by their craft alone, and of course having to make time for jobs that are guaranteed to pay their bills. We’d like to see more creative expression and hope we get a resurgence again soon.
What advice do you have for small businesses?
Stick to your guns. Don’t be a people pleaser, having a vision is what makes you unique even if it’s not what’s on trend. But we know best of all that if you stick with it then people will get on board, your people will find you!
Also, this is so obvious it sounds stupid but make sure you have clear opening hours and be consistent. Make sure people know when you’re open, it’s a simple thing!
You recently become MD of Always Sunday (lovingly nicknamed The Overlord by your team), what changes have you made that feel significant?
Choosing the right humans for the store, website and the pub and then working on unifying all of the elements of Always Sunday so they have their own voices but essentially speak the same language.
What is that language? Can you translate it for us?
Always Sunday is about relishing in the little luxuries like a delicious coffee in your favourite mug, a comforting roast dinner or being wrapped up in your pyjamas for a Sunday morning lie in.
What do you hate and love about being MD?
HATE the meetings, if it can be put into an email then put it in an email for god's sake. I suppose I should say I like being involved in all aspects of the business but truthfully I just like getting to do the things I want to do rather than asking permission and then seeing that those things can actually get done. I am the Overlord and the Overlord loves power.
What’s on the horizon for Always Sunday in 2024? We asked Lauren and she said ‘survive’ but also ‘be even more epic than last year’..
Seems about right! We’ve actually got quite a bit lined up but some of it is super top secret so i can’t discuss it just yet.
Go on, give us a hint..
At the beginning of 2024, we’re going to be taking a good look at what’s been working for the shop side particularly with the rebirth of the online store and build on that. So not schmoozing any new makers for a while but give some love and attention to our current suppliers, expanding our collections with them, and working out what works and what doesn’t to really fine tune it.
Our ‘Help Fill Santa’s Bell Sack’ Christmas giveaway was a success so we’re planning an equally naughty one for Spring and a mystery event for October too!
All the boltholes will be completed, we have a new green-themed one and a blue one. They each represent a colour because colour-paletting is a bit of a signature for us so it will be exciting to develop their personalities.
For Town+House we’re perfecting a brunch menu and reintroducing themed supper clubs and creative workshops in there. It’s where we started and we just know we can make some incredible experiences for our customers. We start in February with a French-inspired campaign that will include a jazzy Parisian Salon supper club and a Passementerie workshop (the art of making tassels), so you can expect some innuendo fuelled tassel-swirling!
And then we’re launching some really amazing wedding and party planning services towards the end of the year that coordinates with Lexi’s own wedding in 2025 so we’re on the hunt for some incredible party decorations.
Plus we’re inspired by the relaunch of The Orient Express La Dolce Vita next year to create some seriously beautiful luxury travel accessories that you can gift and keep forever, delicious things that get better with age like me and stinky cheese!
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