This has been one crazy ass year. I think that’s safe to say of the whole year in general, but I feel I may not be qualified to talk about the whole wide world, so I’ll keep it to a year in the life of AA! It’s been a crazy ride for the brand this year, but in a nutshell it’s been expansion all the way. We’ve increased the team and we’ve moved to a much bigger retail store, plus we’ve increased our own label (more on that in a min).
Of all the changes, the store move was the most epic and one of the most exciting. Gem and I have wanted a bigger flagship store for ages, but we really wanted to stay in our ‘hood and stores don’t come up much in Islington – at least not the size we wanted which was big! So it was bye bye little Upper Street store (which I actually got quite emotional about, which I wasn’t expecting!) and hello to our grand new home on Essex Road. Now we’re up and running and over teething problems and I really feel we are on our way to having one of the coolest stores in town.
The larger store in general is much more work, more drops, more VM-ing and more planning. It has it’s own editorial calendar, regular drops fed into social media, events planned in advance, as well as buying strategies – it’s quite epic now. But we have a whole new store manager and a shop team who are the loveliest, hardest working group I could ask for and are going the extra mile for our customers, so I’m happy it’s all in good hands!
Along the way I’ve signed two deals, an American deal that entails designing a whole host of furniture and accessories for an American wholesaler, which launches in spring 2017. Plus we’ve also recently signed a contract with a Scandinavian agent who will take our own label brand to trade shows across Scandinavia – super exciting. In amongst all this Gem and I have hotfooted it around the globe mostly to China – Shanghai and Hong Kong being key stops for us as we’ve expanded up our own label range. We’ve scaled up the botanicals and we’re introducing furniture and some amazing chandeliers. You guys of course haven’t seen that yet as we have to work so many months in advance but by spring we should have everything in.
The amazing American brand that is Terrain (part of the Anthropologie group and one of my all-time favourite stores) are stocking our bouquets, and we launched in Selfridges in London and Manchester which has been incredible. Voted the coolest store in the world for zillions of years it was one of the definite highlights of 2016 year going into such an iconic store.
We celebrated one year of our faux flowers cabin at Heal’s, and we also opened more Heal’s locations this year including Red Brick Mill in Leeds which looks so fabulous. We’re really trying to break new ground with faux flowers and we’ve seen some amazing commissions! Our wreaths are up in Nopi for the second year running, we’ve had the opportunity to make flowers for some truly beautiful weddings (and shout out to the couple in Ireland who got married purely by candlelight!), restaurant installations and of course our flower workshops which constantly sell out. It’s been huge and I think the flowers side of the biz is only going to get bigger.
The only slight downside to all of this expansion is the work/life balance, or more accurately imbalance. I had holiday plans for early summer which got shelved because of opening the new store; weekends got shaved down to just one day because of the workload. It’s been one of the toughest schedules and years yet and for me and perhaps for the first time ever I’m feeling a little burnt out. I’ve taken up yoga which I’m rubbish at, but do enjoy as its the only time of the day when I don’t think about the business. It’s funny because all I ever wanted was to grow this business make it bigger, better and expand it. I had little idea about all the problems such things create like the endless ebb and flow of cash, the operational issues caused in expanding up fast, customer service failures, leadership shortfulls – I could go on but I will bore the pants off you all! I guess I need to weave out more me time/personal time out of the business because it does take its toll and then tackle such issues positively rather than feeling weighed down – but then I guess that’s pretty normal in running an expanding biz right?
I hope to go into 2017 with a better work life balance (although I said that last year and that didn’t exactly happen) but I shall try. By the end of next year I would love a little bolthole to escape to as well, nothing fancy – a cabin in the forest perhaps? But that just might be a pipe dream we shall see.
The best thing out of the whole year I have to say is having you guys around. I feel like you are my support system, design loving buddies, and a constant source of inspiration. I get so inspired by your images and social feeds and by all your comments. So the hugest thank you to each and everyone who reads this blog, follows along online, who has visited or bought from the store or attended one of the design schools. Without you none of this would be possible so I am eternally grateful!
Happy New Year everyone and thank you again for all your support. Here’s to an amazing 2017.