Sam Hood, co-founder of the de­sign Mecca Amara, is a pi­o­neer of home­ware re­tail’s in­creas­ingly web-based world

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Spring Shopping -

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.’

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