Long Barn in Hampshire, UK, is a beautiful retail destination with a perfect combination of plant nursery, lifestyle store, lavender farm and café, all set within two acres of lavender fields. Having established the business in November 2009, Horticulturist and plant enthusiast Richard Norris, was the founding member, turning his love for lavender into the successful enterprise it is today, alongside co-director Jane Marsden, former marketing director, who brought her business acumen to the venture. The Long Barn store now attracts a loyal following with its considered collection of products and friendly sales team. We are delighted to share Jane’s retail success and journey as a shopkeeper.
Situated on a site, which, since the Middle Ages, was originally used to pen sheep for the famous annual Alresford Sheep Fair, Long Barn is a series of green oak barns constructed by a local company and heated by the latest air source heat-pump technology. Richard and Jane designed the barn shop with help from Julian Roberts and Caroline Mee at design company Irving & Co . “We also worked with Richard Moore, who is a brilliant merchandiser who then went on to work with Tiffany in New York!” Located close to the historic cathedral city of Winchester, and surrounded by lavender planting and wild flowers, Long Barn is renowned for producing their own brand of high quality lavender beauty and bath products. Theirs is a strong ethos of respect for the countryside, without using any chemicals, or artificial additives. Harvesting and distillation of the oil takes place on the farm during July and August.
As well as a retail venture, Long Barn also offer their lavender products, made by small English suppliers, to discerning businesses, such as hotels, restaurants and other retailers. With a new lifestyle barn recently unveiled, emphasis is placed on using local artisans to supply unique handcrafted products, giving the shop a refreshing individuality. Fashion, beauty, decorative home wares, vintage finds, outdoor furniture, food and gardening, are all catered for under one roof now. “We are known for having something new and seasonal the whole year round.”
There is also a charming café offering delicious, seasonal produce for a spot of breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea, and a terrace overlooking the lavender fields and English countryside makes for a picturesque backdrop. “Our customers range from local elderly residents, to London ‘ex-pats’ as we call them. From 0-90 years of age! Essentially, what they have in common is an appreciation of design, style and genuine customer service.”
Richard Norris & Jane Marsden, Shopkeepers at Long Barn
Who inspires you? Any woman who makes it to the top in retail – I now know how hard it is!
What inspires you? Feedback from customers when they love spending time here, and my team when they get it totally right, even when I’m hands-off!
Before I was a shopkeeper, I was….A marketing manager for food and drink brands.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? It takes so much longer than you can ever imagine building a business. You always need more money than you think you do!
What tasks do you like to delegate? The hands-on tasks: serving customers, merchandising and even marketing now. I now trust others to do it as well as I can. It has taken a long time to get to that point.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? You can never predict a day. The great British public will always surprise you!
What would be your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Keep it simple. Keep your offer focused. Resist temptation to sell a wide range, which can confuse your consumer.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Peter Kay. He is my secret passion. No other man makes me quite that happy!
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be…? A genealogy researcher – my other secret passion.
What is your perfect day off? A long walk in Derbyshire, with my two Beagles. A quiet night in front of the wood-burner with said dogs, my husband, his cooking…and a great wine!
Can you share your five favourite shops? A difficult one. I find it increasingly hard to be impressed. My current favourites are: Petersham Nurseries in Richmond; The Hambledon in Winchester; Borough Market in London; A wonderful boutique vinegar shop in Lagrasse in the Languedoc, called Cyril Codina is my latest rave. Tiny village, tiny shop but unique – a rare thing.
What are your favorite neighborhood coffee shop & restaurant? It has to be our own cafe here at Long Barn. Sorry! Favourite restaurant is currently Pulpo Negro in our market town of Alresford – the best Spanish food anywhere.
On the Future of Retail
“Unless retailers have a clear point of difference then they will lose out to the web. Retail will increasingly polarize between a simple, unique offer filling a functional need, and a destination where customers come for the experience, as much as for the goods you sell. Long Barn is focused on just that – experiential retail.”
Words & Photographs by Stephanie Bateman Sweet The Lifestyle Editor
The Old Sheep Fair, Bishops Sutton Road, Alresford, Hampshire