We sent our Partner Agent, Brendan May to catch up with Vicky & Ian, a couple from Thrapston and proud owners of Auburn Fox.
“Vicky was born in Kettering and has lived there her entire life. I’m (Ian) originally from Tamworth in Staffordshire and moved to Barton Seagrave in 2017 when Vicky and I moved in together.”
Auburn Fox is a home & interiors shop and online retailer. Until recently, the couple owned and operated the shop by themselves, however they have now hired a small team of staff to help day to day.
“The thing we love most is the people we meet, many of whom share our passion for interiors and design.”
Surprisingly, Vicky & Ian had never been involved in interiors before, but have always admired well put together interiors. Prior to launching their own business, Vicky was in her final year of training to be a midwife and Ian had been a Prison Officer for 8 years.
Auburn Fox specialises in quality furniture and homewares that are often against the run-of-the-mill. Their furniture is always solid, never using particle board or chipboard, which means that the quality of the furniture is extremely high quality.
“We tend to steer towards rustic, reclaimed or industrial styles that have an element of country living. We have a lot of customers that have converted barns, school houses and chapels and I think our style of furniture is well suited to these types of homes.”
“As far as homewares and accessories go, we’re very quirky and different. We’re aware that our unusual items aren’t going to be popular with everyone, but being different is what makes us stand out and it’s why our customers come back to us.”
When selecting suppliers, Vicky & Ian consider a range of different factors. Not only have they got to have great products that fit the style of the shop, but they have to share the same values in terms of customer service.
“If a supplier doesn’t share our attitude towards our customers then it quickly becomes difficult to work with them.”
Ultimately, the most important things that Vicky & Ian look for are their attitude, reliability and integrity. The couple have established great relationships with a network of customer focused suppliers over the years, alongside ceasing trading with suppliers that don’t live up to the high standards they set for their customers.
“Auburn Fox was what we call a happy accident.”
Auburn Fox was launched in late 2017 when Vicky & Ian began making shelves from pallet wood and restoring old furniture, all from their back garden. After posting some of the things that they had created for sale on Facebook, they received an overwhelming response with people requesting bespoke sizes and finishes. It didn’t take long until they outgrew their garden, temporarily using a friend’s shed until they managed to move into their new workshop in Corby.
“Although we were successful, we could never produce enough between us to scale the business any further. By the time we’d covered our overheads each month there wasn’t any money left to support a family.”
Both Vicky & Ian were working long hours, sometimes into the early hours of the morning, and they knew that the business wasn’t sustainable long term. This is when the couple started to source furniture and homeware from elsewhere, and Auburn Fox transformed into what it is today.
One of the biggest challenges the pair have faced when running their own interiors shop is spotting new trends in advance. They say it is best to trust your instinct and not get too carried away if you think you’re onto something.
“I’m the one that will go crazy and order loads of something on a hunch but then Vicky is more sensible and reins it back in. It’s why we work so well together.”
COVID-19 has also presented somewhat of a challenge, shutting down businesses here but also manufacturing and logistics all over the world. Globally there is a shortage of supply, with shipping more than tripling in cost.
“It’s essential that we’re proactive and try to stay a step ahead when it comes to sourcing and securing stock.”
Despite the challenges of the current global situation, Vicky & Ian have managed to open a third section in their building. Originally, Auburn Fox took two of three units available to them, with no plans to acquire a third. But due to the success of the store, they have now expanded out into the third unit, all within the first year of trading.
One of the most impressive things about Auburn Fox is it’s history. The shop is located within a Grade II listed building with lots of character and original features. It had been with the same family for generations and had been derelict for around 14 years. It has now been converted into a beautiful building that holds great importance with many locals as they share fond memories of Cottons Shoe Shop and Jacques Bike Shop.
“We’ve had amazing feedback from local people and I hope we’re doing the building justice.”
Vicky & Ian spotted the benefit of social media to their business right from the get-go, launching their social media pages on day one in order to reach potential customers and to keep everyone up to date with new products, offers and news.
“You can reach a large audience very quickly and at a low cost. If you’re not using social media to promote your business then you’re really missing out on a great way of connecting with new and existing customers.”
Both Vicky & Ian love Thrapston and have been lucky enough to receive phenomenal support from local people. There is a really strong community in the town and people are often very supportive and proud of what Thrapston has to offer.
“They’ve embraced us and have been so welcoming and there is honestly nowhere else we’d rather be.”
“There are so many great businesses in Thrapston, Ben’s Chippy regularly keeps us fed at lunch and Ady Pendred has been a massive help creating all of our signage. Charlotte at Jollies Toys is an invaluable asset to the town as she organises the monthly farmers market that’s hugely popular and brings additional footfall to the high street.”
In terms of the future, the couple are always looking to increase their presence within the surrounding areas and in Northamptonshire. Looking further ahead, they would also like to increase their reach online, broaden their range of products and open up their own warehouse.