This is the first in our series of "Meet the Stockist" blog posts in which we chat with our stockists to learn more about their business and the people behind it. Who else could we select for our first interview but Fiona Nelson-Van Loon of Ruby Tuesday. Not only are Ruby Tuesday also based in Alnwick but they were our very first stockist! Fiona took a chance on us at such an early stage of our business which has massively contributed to our success, and for that we are always grateful.
So here goes......
Tell us a little about the background of Ruby Tuesday and how it came about?
"Having spent many years working for a large global organisation, climbing the career ladder, living to work as opposed to working to live, fate dealt me a hand when I was made redundant just a short time after moving back to the UK with the company following many years in The Netherlands. (Thanks for that guys, that was really lovely. Not.) After almost 20 years working in Account and Sales Management dealing (rather well actually!) with the whims and demands of other Global organisations I was dumped. It was a soul destroying period and still impacts me now but having moved back to Northumberland (I was born in Alnwick) with my Dutch husband and two children, we had very quickly realised that this was the right place to settle with our children and the thought of heading back into the city was not a happy one.
So after a short forray into the world of handmade jewellery one wet cold February Sunday morning I agreed to buy Ruby Tuesday (it was somewhat more convoluted and complex than I'm making it sound but it would make for pretty boring reading!).
I couldn't think of another name for the shop so kept Ruby Tuesday! My aim from the start has been to supply goods and art from local companies alongside my other exclusive suppliers. I re-branded with a new logo and from one day to the next took over the shop....the transformation is ongoing!"
What sorts of products can we expect to see in your store?
"Hmm...... where to start! A whole host of carefully selected lifestyle and homeware items, home furnishings, art, candles (of course!) as well as gifts, jewellery, Harris Tweed (handbags / caps etc), children's clothing, electronics, honestly we have absolutely all sorts! We are also home to a select number of local artists & crafters. I can guarantee you will find something you either need or want in RT whether for yourself, your home or as a gift. Our pricing starts at just a couple of pounds."
How would you describe your typical customer?
"There isn't one however pretty much everyone who comes into the shop, whether regularly or not are smiley, happy, comment on the beautiful smells and products and are always happy for a chat (which is good, because I am an expert in chatting!). Some people come in and are disappointed when they see me and not my mum or dad who have unintentionally become part of the business, helping out in the shop and my dad can always be seen brushing the pavement outside and sometimes being a little cheeky to customers!"
How do you find brands to stock in Ruby Tuesday?
"Well first I go.....sorry not telling you those secrets but I can say that everything we stock at RT is exclusive to us - if a supplier will not give me exclusivity then the conversation is over. Providing customers with ranges that they can not get up the road is an absolute golden rule at RT. This applies for local, smaller stockists as much as it does for the larger ones. Keeping things fresh and continually introducing new products is what keeps our lovely customers coming back and the shop an interesting place to browse (I hope!)."
What first interested you in Notes of Northumberland?
"It was a combination of the Northumberland branding and focus which is beautifully executed combined with the product fragrances and unique elements such as the wooden wicks. As soon as I saw Notes I was on a mission to get them into RT as you well know!!"
Which is your personal favourite Notes of Northumberland fragrance?
"That's tricky as my fragrance favourites change depending on the outside temperature, the seasons etc but if I had to chose just one it would be Cheviot" ... Good choice :-)
What is your favourite thing about owning Ruby Tuesday?
"Seeing people walk away delighted with their purchases or hearing feedback from people who have bought gifts that were a major hit! This and the fact that no-one can talk vacuous corporate waffle at me all day long void of sincerity, emotion or a human side.....no conference calls here! I also love the engagement and involvement from my parents, husband and my children - no-one is ever short of a word of advise or a suggestion and my 13 year old is a dab hand at pricing up and using the till!"
How do you like to spend your days off?
"What's a day off?! Seriously, there is never a day off...but watching my kids at their various sporting activities from Rugby to Football to Olympic Weightlifting to Crossfit. Cooking a great meal (not necessarily fancy, just great!) together with my husband and family, pottering in the garden (only when it's warmer though!), blowing the cobwebs away on one of Northumberlands world beating beaches....just hanging out and 'being' with the people I love brings happiness and rest. I would love to travel more again....for now I curb the urge by looking at destinations I can't afford online!"
What can we expect to see in the future from Ruby Tuesday?
Some gorgeous new suppliers coming up in February and beyond and the buying search never ends. We will be launching our website very soon, there will be some changes internally to the shop and display areas, we'll be launching a kind of loyalty programme for our customers and will be focusing on introducing more beautiful things to the range which also contribute to protecting our environment where possible. There is an awful lot planned for RT in the coming months and years, the most important thing to me though is the continued support from our lovely customers. There is a lot of gloom and doom talk about the high street....I however am convinced that we will see a sea change and people want to come into places like Ruby Tuesday where they get genuine personal service and a shopping experience that leaves them with a warm fuzzy feeling that you simply don't get from a few online clicks. A trip to Ruby Tuesday is a chosen experience rather than a necessity and we will keep working hard to get as many existing and new customers through our doors as we can to experience our little family enterprise!
Thanks very much to Fiona for her time. Ruby Tuesday is a fantastic shop and we recommend you pay them a visit, of course you could pick up one of our products while you are there!
You can find Ruby Tuesday at No 8 Narrowgate, Alnwick. We will update this blog post with their website as soon as it is available.