ONLINE FOCUS AMARA
Sam Hood, co-founder of the design Mecca Amara, is a pioneer of homeware retail’s increasingly web-based world
It’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t shop online. Yet in 2005, when Sam Hood and her husband set up Amara, originally as an interior design business and boutique in Essex, they quickly identified internet retail as a huge gap in the market. ‘Back then, hardly anyone was selling designer homewares online, so unless you lived in a large city, it was hard to access wonderful interiors brands,’ recalls Hood.
From the get-go, the couple established relationships with key designers such as William Yeoward and Christian Lacroix and, in an unusual move, have always carried stock. ‘Many online retailers only use the images of products, then when customers buy them, they take six weeks to arrive. Apart from larger pieces, we have the stock, so we can deliver the next day.’
Its extensive, ever-changing range of products has been key to Amara’s success, and although Hood is always on the lookout for interesting brands to add to the site, she has deliberately cut numbers down (at one point, Amara carried around 600 brands – now it’s 250). ‘ We decided not to pursue some of the brands selling the kind of items that we’re not known for, such as stationery. By editing our range so that it’s a curated, cohesive collection of our favourite pieces, it gives us more time to work more closely with our chosen brands to develop the range each season,’ she explains.
At any one time, there is always at least one exclusive collection available: currently, it’s a range of Mulberry cushions, and for summer, there will be Missoni Home beach bags. Two years ago, Hood also launched the ‘A by Amara’ homeware collection, which is based around styles she knows will appeal to her customers, and features pieces sourced from designers around the world.
Around half of all Amara’s orders are shipped internationally, but for those that aren’t, a handy new click-and-collect service means that purchases can be delivered to a nearby store. ‘Everything is about making the shopping process easier,’ says Hood.
Plans for the future include a possible concept store, where customers could use an ipad to order products for next-day delivery. Other than that, Hood wants to continue to spread the word about Amara. ‘Having our own range helps people recognise us as a brand rather than just a shop,’ she explains, ‘and that’s exactly what we want.’ amara.com