High-end furniture and homeware doesn’t have to be beyond one’s reach, believes Lavender Hill Interiors’ Co-Director Mary McManus.
Bringing a piece of classic-contemporary elegance to your home can come at a price. However, online retailers Mary McManus and Gina Courtenay – also twin sisters – are changing that.
Lavender Hill Interiors (LHI), an online boutique store that went live in 2012, is reshaping the way customers buy French and Hamptons style furniture by cutting prices considerably without compromising on design and quality. They work with designers and makers to bring the furniture directly from the factory to their customers’ homes.
With quality and price being crucial to their customers, LHI offers professionally curated packages – featuring classic French and Hamptons furniture and homewares – as cost and time effective solutions.
Mary McManus shares the challenges and opportunities of operating in the digital space as a small business while consistently delivering high quality at low prices.
What are some of the challenges LHI faces in the online retail space and how is it overcoming them?
The online furniture space was only coming of age when we began in 2012. However, now every furniture retailer has an online presence. Our point of difference is a combination of our beautiful range, quality and price and the fact that we offer completely styled furniture packages. We also hold most of our furniture in our warehouse in Alexandria, so our customers rarely need to wait more than a week for their order to arrive.
We are a small business without any investors, so we don’t have the funds behind us to undertake traditional or print media marketing. We rely heavily on digital marketing including online shopping, paid campaigns using Google AdWords, social media marketing, re-marketing, content marketing and automated emails, such as cart abandonment reminders and order follow-ups.
LHI has built an immense community of followers on social media. How has this contributed to the overall business growth?
We do have a strong social media presence with a combined followership of over 120K users across Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Houzz. We invest a lot of time and energy in daily posts on all these social platforms, interacting with our followers, in addition to consistent advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Social media conversions constitute about 10% of our total annual conversions.
You’ve moved from a career in public relations to starting your own venture. What inspired you to take the leap?
I had my own public relations company for 12 years, but I wanted to raise my two young sons (a 1-year old and other only a few months old) at the time I left. Besides a two-year stint in a public relations company when I left university, I have always worked for myself. When my boys were a little older, I was ready to enter the workforce again. My sister – who comes from a Law background – and I discussed the idea of opening our own business based on our shared passion for French and Hamptons interiors. I wanted to work for myself again which allowed me flexibility with my sons. While this means that I am working very long hours including weekends and nights, I absolutely love what I do!
Having started the business with your twin sister, how does it impact the professional and personal synergy you share?
We have always had a good friendship and now have a great working relationship. We complement each other, and our roles have developed organically over the years. As my background is in public relations, I look after marketing as well as IT while my sister deals with our factories in China, stock orders and managing our staff. We both love the creative side too and develop new product lines together.
What is the toughest decision you have made and how did you handle it?
One of the toughest decision we made was to move to larger premises, i.e. office, showroom and warehouse. Our rent more than doubled, but we really believed in our business and took the leap and have not looked back since!
What are the three things you’re most excited about for the business in 2018?
- Our new collection of navy linen furniture
- Introducing an e-decorating service for our customers
- Releasing new dining tables and Malawi chairs