A treasure trove of beautiful interior and lifestyle pieces, COVET is one of my favourite local shops. With a window display guaranteed to provide a feast-for-the-eyes, this is exactly the kind of store in which you can while-away a Saturday afternoon. There’s always something new, something different, something responsibly sourced and made, something with a story. COVET was born from an idea Lorraine had when she took some time away from work after having her first child. Very soon, her dream of opening her own fully-fledged interiors store became a reality and nearly a decade on she has opened a second store in Harrogate.
In this interview, Lorraine talks about her ambition, her stores and what she loves most about running her own business. However, I particularly love Lorraine’s honesty about the challenges of setting-up a business. The commercial, financial, legal, and marketing skill-set required to set up a business is one which, for most people, takes time and external support to achieve. It’s really refreshing to hear an open account of this recognition; I know there will be many small business owners who can relate to these struggles.
Over to Lorraine…
1/ What was the main motivation behind opening your store?
It’s something I’ve always wanted; no further motivation was required! From my earliest memory I played shop and was single-minded about what I liked and disliked, often to my parents’ horror! With an Austrian Mother and a practical Yorkshireman Dad, I was very much influenced by the natural beauty of the Austrian mountain life; a way of life that utilises what is found in nature, and is conscious of the environment. Growing up with this concept of eco-living shaped my personal and business ethos. But I’m also a practical person, which I get from helping my Dad doing-up wrecks of houses! I loved getting my hands dirty and later redesigning spaces; making things beautiful again.
After my first child was born, I was a stay at home Mum and didn’t work for seven years. I felt I had been out-of-the-loop for too long to return to work and thought I would sell accessories from my husbands’ hair salon. This idea grew in my head to a full-blown takeover of the shop. After much negotiating I kicked him out (of the shop!) and opened COVET behind The Grove in Ilkley. There was no capital to invest; I borrowed money to buy stock and to decorate. With a little help from some close friends, my husband and I worked around the clock, sharing housework and childcare to make the business a success.
It was tough, and it certainly feels like we defied all the rules! We had to borrow to get started, we opened in a slump with very little retail experience, yet nearly 10 years on we have two successful shops and I can honestly say it’s the best thing we ever did. If you follow your heart people can see your passion, and that (combined with shear hard work!) goes a long way.
2/ What can we buy from you?
COVET is a treasure trove of interior and lifestyle pieces. You can buy homewares, occasional pieces of furniture (one-offs to cool Danish-designed pieces), clothing, jewellery and accessories. You’ll always find something different and I don’t limit myself to what we sell, it just has to fit our ethos of thoughtful design, Fair-trade, and repurposed or handmade.
3/ Out of everything you sell, what are your favourite pieces?
I love the Berber Boucherouite rugs. They are the under-dog of rugs made by very modest households out of rags. They don’t have the grandiose of the Beni Ourain’s. They are very colourful with the most amazing of tribal and artistic designs. And what is really lovely about them is that they work in so many different interiors; from ultra modern minimalist designs to earthy eclectic ones. As with all the Berber rugs there is no set pattern when weaving. The women elaborate on age-old designs to make unique pieces of art, all in a rug!
It’s hard to pin me down though as I am a bit of a magpie! The jewellery we sell is also very tempting; it’s all handmade, some in the U.K and some in Paris and Israel. And now I’ve starting thinking about it, I could go on, and on listing my favourites! I guess that’s why the shop has so much variety!
4/ What do you love most about running your own business?
The favourite thing about running my own business is it fits around family life. Although it wasn’t always like that. My youngest son was 4 when I started and with no family support I had to put them in after-school clubs and be organised in the holidays, which I found quite stressful and guilty about. I suspect that’s something many working women can relate to.
5/ What has been your biggest challenge to-date?
The business side of opening COVET was a huge learning curve for me. I had never been in a position of authority and, if I’m honest, I was very disorganised. I had no idea how to run anything, let alone doing VAT returns or bookkeeping. These were the things that always put me off getting started and I have had many a tearful midnight meltdown sorting out invoices. I still find being organised difficult however my lovely staff over the years have shown me various practical tools to help. I also now pay an accountant which is money well spent in my eyes!! I’m also slightly dyslexic, even spell check says “no replacement found”. I remember one lady saying to her friend “I’m not buying something if they can’t even spell it”. Thankfully most people smile to themselves or forgive me this detail.
6/ What do you think will be the next interior trends in 2021?
I think we’ll see lots of Neo-Greek style in interiors this coming year; the classics, but perhaps with a twist! That said, whilst I love fashion and trends, my love for nature and craft will always be the underlying factor and I would say that’s the heart of COVET’s ethos and style.
7/ What are you the most proud of?
I am most proud of getting COVET off the ground and still going nearly 10 years on. I am also very proud to play a strong part within Ilkley and Harrogate’s communities. I always have a sense of being on the periphery in a personal capacity so feeling like a belong as a business at the heart of a community is a lovely feeling.
8/ What’s next for you and your brand?
The next step for us, like so many businesses in this era of COVID is to strengthen our online offering. This will be very challenging for me as we are very much a face-to-face service with a bricks-and-mortar tactile shopping space. Nothing will replace this but we will also have to try and translate that store-vibe onto an online shopping experience. We will certainly give it our best shot!
9/ Do you have an ideal celebrity customer?
I’m not a massive follower of celebrity, however I have just finished watching Better Things on BBC and l love Sam and her style. I would be very pleased to see her shopping with us.
You can find COVET stores in both Ilkley and Harrogate in Yorkshire, as well as online at www.covetshop.net
And do check out @covetshops on Instagram too – there’s an abundance of beautiful product and store images!