Hello Debbie. How are things there?
Very good thanks.
Can you tell us the background to MeggyMoos and Vintage
Style Gifts and how and why you formed these enterprises?
MeggyMoos started completely by accident, actually. I’d
gone to a trade show with a friend because we’d sourced
some enamel containers. You know the sort you get now with
coffee, tea, sugar, dog food? We found these sets and had
a look around and I thought “There’s a nice business
to be had here.” We were looking at shabby chic and
vintagey gifts, which were the kind of thing I’ve always
been into. My house is full of this anyway. And I thought
“Ooh, I could be selling this. I love it.” And really
it’s just started from there. It started out quite small
and I was just doing parties at people’s houses. We’ve
got the big Norwich and Norfolk Hospital which is fairly
new up here, and you can use the rental unit once a month
and turn it into your own shop for the day. Word just
spread and we kind of took on more stock and were sourcing
more and more shabby chic and vintagey stuff and got more
into the retro stuff. We did parties for a couple of years
and charity events, fundraising events, school events and
that sort of thing. Then people kept saying to me “Have
you got a website? Where can I get this?”
Were you doing anything else at the time?
I was working in a garden centre actually, part-time.
Because they often have a little area to sell home stuff?
Yes they do and this one didn’t and I convinced Jack the
owner there that I would have a little gift shop that I
would fill it and he would just take a commission. So I
bought a little cabin/summer house and turned it into a
treasure trove of things that people liked. Then I found
three or four more shops where I did the same thing. So
there were lots of areas where I was selling, but still
people were asking about the website. In the end I thought
“Hmm, that’s obviously the way to go. Do that.”
It’s a great way to promote - doing the parties and
being out and about and spreading the
word about your website. Obviously giving out cards
and promotional leaflets.
Is there much competition for this on the web?
There is quite a lot of competition because it’s popular
and continuing to be very popular.
Yes, if you go out for a drive and into the villages there
will always be two or three shops or country retail
centres that sell a bit of vintage look.
Yes, yes. I was quite lucky here in Norwich because there
wasn’t anything. There are a few now – some shops have
sprung up in Norwich itself. I used to live in Surrey, and
when I go back to Surrey to see family there are loads of
shops that sell this kind of thing. I got in quite early
here. We have been up here eleven years now and we have
three children, my husband commutes to London. We thought
we’d move up here before the kids got bigger.
What’s the differences between MeggyMoos and Vintage
Vintage Style Gifts came along because I’ve got a very
good website designer and we’ve got quite a good close
working relationship now. Just about a year ago we were
looking for a name for a different website entirely and
got sidetracked and found Vintage Style Gifts was
available. So really it was as simple as that and I
thought it does what it says on the box, basically. It was
a good one. There are now different things on both but a
lot is the same and with the way The Internet works it
means you get found from different areas and that’s the
beauty of The Internet – you can market it in all kinds
of different ways and you’re not just stuck to your one
window on the high street. Retro has come in more for us
in the last year because it is getting more and more
popular and retro is vintage really.
Dinosaurs are retro strictly speaking. (Laughs)
Exactly, yes. People
say “What’s the difference?” and I say “One is the
other – retro is vintage and vintage is retro.”
Some people get snotty about it – I was talking to a
gentleman the other day who runs a 20th century
furniture store and he said he didn’t want to be seen as
retro and I said “Why, what is it then if not retro?”
and he said “Because retro means such and such.” And I
said “Maybe to you and some people, but to others it
means something different.” He said “But they’re not
right.” And I said “Well, you have to go with what
most people think and if they think 20th
century is retro, then it’s retro.” If you’re in
business then you have to go with the flow.
You can’t pigeon-hole yourself otherwise you’re
cutting off a whole market.
I think people have a picture in their heads of what retro
is – funky colours, the sixties and so on. The lovely
old radios which I really like and they think that’s
retro but you can take it as far back or near as you want
Why is retro and vintage perennially popular?
I think it’s an easy kind of style to take on board for
a start, especially vintage and retro. It’s comfortable
for me and this is our style of house – it’s all
comfortable and a bit shabby chic and some of it’s
distressed so you don’t feel that you have to be too
precious about it. It’s not minimalistic – doesn’t
have to look sharp and clean and pristine which is hard to
achieve especially if you have a big family with dogs
running round. I don’t quite understand how families can
live in a minimalistic style if they’re living everyday
life. (Laughs) Unless it’s just our house! I think
it’s a lot to do with that and you can dig something out
that’s been hanging around in a cupboard – you can
revive it with a coat of paint or use something that you
used to look at and say “Oh God” but now looks great
against something you bought more recently maybe.
As long as we never go back to the seventies where we had
floral wallpaper, floral carpets and floral chairs and it
was horrible. And the shirts as well, so that it looked
like an explosion in a pizza parlour.
The beauty of it now is that people can pick up maybe one
or two pieces – a lovely old lampshade made of vintage
fabric maybe and fit it into something that’s a bit more
bland and a bit more easy on the eye. And you kind of have
a modern look with a vintage twist.
One of my clients, who does restorations of jukeboxes, he
has a client with a warehouse apartment with very modern
furniture and in the corner is a jukebox.
I bet that works really well.
He said it looks fantastic.
Yeah. If you’ve got a loft-style apartment that
can be quite modern but if it’s got lovely old brickwork
and a bit of wood and you stick something really vintage
or retro in it then it stands out and makes a real
statement. You can go and root around your parents’
I know. So long as it doesn’t become clutter.
Exactly, yeah. I think people got a lot more wise to it
and it’s a nicer style now.
I’m sitting here with forties and fifties movie posters
on the wall but it’s a real mix – modern items like a
new sound system and some refurbished old furniture and a
few retro items like an old phone and some framed photos
of The Beatles.
Yeah, I think that kind of thing looks really good. A
beaten up old leather sofa maybe or some nice old fabric.
If I use a sofa it soon ends up beaten up and squashy.
(Both laugh) So what do you most enjoy about what you do?
I think actually it’s the buying and the sourcing and if
you find something a bit different. On MeggyMoos over the
past two weeks we’ve started to develop a Fabulously
British section. Because I do come across a lot of people
who make their own, or have them made, but it’s all made
here in the UK and that really excites me. I think wow,
it’s all being made here, you’ve handmade these things
and I’m kind of agog at people that can do that sort of
thing. Which is really nice. I quite like sourcing new
things and think “Ooh, I’d quite like one of those in
my house. If I like it…”
Also, I suppose it satisfies your need to do shopping
without the need to part with your own cash as it were?
It does, and on the other side of it I still do parties
and it’s great – selling on the web is great but you
don’t get the customer contact so I’m still doing
parties and fund raisers and that sort of thing. You meet
your customers as well which is really nice and get good
That is important, of course. You reacted to the feedback
when people mentioned the web and it didn’t take you
long to realise that if they’re asking about it a lot
then maybe I should be doing it.
Exactly. It is important because it helped me move on. I
think maybe it’s easy to be selling something that you
really love but not actually selling it that often. But
because you love it you keep flogging it (laughs) until
suddenly you think “Why have you still got those
No, you have to stand back every once in a while and ask
yourself what is it that you’re trying to achieve? If
you’re spending 90% of your time making 10% of your
profit then you need to re-evaluate what you are doing and
concentrating on the profit-making aspects.
What are your best sellers?
For a while, although it trailed off for a bit but now
perhaps has taken off again is all the retro mugs. They
have got raspberry jelly or Fab lolly designs on them by
an artist called Martin Wiscombe and they are all very
retro – spotted dick and jam roly-poly designs and all
that sort of thing. And people just love them and they
produced with a kind of distressed finish although they
are all china and we sell load and loads of those. They do
cake tins and jugs and teapots as well.
It would be nice if we could find English restaurants in
every town doing plain good English pies and puddings in
the same way as there’s an Indian and a Chinese and an Italian
in every town.
Yes, the ones there are tend to try to do it up a bit too
much and make it too full of style. I know what you mean.
Maybe there’s a market there?
Perhaps so. We’re working in conjunction at the moment
with a shop in Windsor called Diva – it’s a clothes
shop and she started selling my stuff for me about a year
ago and it did really well. She had a room at the back
that sells ball gowns and it was very seasonal. So with
another friend who is running a tea shop we opened up a
vintage tea shop where she serves everything on vintage
crockery that she
has found at boot sales and antique fairs. The old vintage
table cloths, all the vintage goods are hung around the
place and lovely home made cakes on the three–tiered
cake stands. You can go in for afternoon tea with a pot of
tea and a three-tiered cake stand with sandwiches and
cakes on. I’m in there sometimes and I see three girls
and they’ve got one each! I don't know how they manage
that. She charges £6.95 for.
That’s not bad at all.
You’re getting a couple of rounds of sandwiches, two or
three slices of cake which are enormous and a pot of tea.
It’s not bad at all and she’s inundated – she’s so
busy. It’s a nice atmosphere and quite tiny and cosy.
We have a similar place here which I call ‘my club’
where you get a great bacon sandwich and the place is like
something out of the fifties. But all of the waitresses
seem to be rather bad tempered, which I find hilarious.
The customers are very friendly but the staff a bit
You wonder if
they really don’t enjoy being there.
The owner obviously doesn’t care about the impression
they give. So what are your plans for both of the
It all comes under the umbrella of MeggyMoos – I would
love to just grow and grow and I just want to see how far
I can take it.
You’re doing alright in these uncertain times.
We’ve had a kind of steady growth throughout this year
which is good. I look at our orders sometimes and the
number of orders hasn’t increased that much but the
value of each order has increased an awful lot, which is
quite interesting. And it does make me think perhaps we
are missing out on sales somewhere.
Your tactic of having several different sites is a good
one and I know a lot of clients that have done that
I think you could be searching for the same item on both
of my sites and they will come up in a different area. It's
a good way to attract more people and we often find both
sites listed for the search term two or three times, so
you’re capturing virtually the whole first page quite
Do you sell on Amazon or eBay?
No. I dabbled on Amazon but I think people think of that
as books, music and electricals.
I have a client who does well on Amazon and comes up for
many of his products as the first result. He has a huge
warehouse and runs the business for six months of the year
That’s the way to do it.
Most people will click on his result.
He started when someone gave him forty glasses with Coke
branding on them and he sold them on eBay for a good
profit. He realised that he could turn that into a way of
selling other retro items and now he does, mainly on Amazon.
It makes you wonder. eBay is inundated with…
There is a lot of rubbish on there and it’s had to
separate the quality from the inferior. I think it
devalues the good stuff.
Yes, I think so and I can find people selling the same stuff
as me almost at cost price and I don’t know how they do
it. Do they do it for the fun of it? But then my stuff
looks really dear next to it. You have to factor in your
postage and time to parcel it up and send it off and all
the admin and overheads. I’m not sure how some people
make it worthwhile.
The good thing is that you have your themed websites and
people are finding you. Long may it continue Debbie.