Opening a physical retail store

Jenny Matthews designed for international luxury brands before founding Love My Human – a modern pet store and grooming spa. Nestled in the heart of Chelsea’s King’s Road, we highlight the importance of location, community and experience.

Hi Jenny, how did the idea for Love My Human first come about?

I was holidaying in New York and missing my dogs Alfie and Belle (Tibetan terriers), I desperately wanted to buy something for them to take back and I couldn’t find a decent pet shop/boutique anywhere which got me thinking that we have the same issue in London, so my obsession to make this happen began in 2017.

At a time when retail brands are moving predominantly online, you’ve expanded from a digital store into a physical shop. What were your motivations behind this?

I tend to not follow trends and I follow my gut. I have never enjoyed online shopping, it’s convenient but you can’t replace it with the pleasure of walking around a beautiful shop where you can touch, feel, and try on. When it comes to buying things for loved ones (i.e. fur-babies) with items like dog beds, feeding tables, collars, and leads – it’s much better to see the actual proportions of the item, the finish, and what vibe it gives off… it’s a thing that I find hard to do online so having a physical shop was a no-brainer.

Love My Human store

Your 1,700 sq ft store is nestled in the heart of Chelsea’s Kings Road. Why did you choose this part of town?

I’ve always loved this part of the King’s Road, I’m a huge fan of the Designers Guild as well as the Bluebird shop which is sadly no longer there.  It’s the one part of King’s Road that hasn’t been taken over by chain shops so I knew like-minded people would come here to look for unique things, especially if it was a pet shop and luxury groomer. It’s also part of King’s Road that is close to residential homes so we feel more like part of a ‘community’ rather than just another high street shop.

How was it finding the perfect space and fitting it out?

It was actually the very first shop that the agents showed us and as soon as we walked in it felt like home. Fitting out the shop was a total pleasure as it was such a personal project done with a team of talented friends and the carpenter and architect that had worked on our house. Our interior designer is a close friend and we had a lot of fun hunting and selecting interior items and watching it come alive.  Btw all of us are pet owners!

Love My Human store shelves

We hear a lot about the changing face of retail and the high street – what’s your take on this?

Retailers have to give shoppers an experience and a sense of a mini-vacation when they’re in your shop so it’s not enough just to have products on shelves and stiff bored assistants serving them. We have to awaken their all senses through visual display, music, scent, and caress them emotionally with the pleasantness of the staff. The moment someone comes through the door the staff has to know how to treat each customer – be personable, pleasant, and be able to read the customer and their needs. If we get this right we will have a customer and a friend of the shop for life. Many just come in to talk about their pets as they know we are as obsessed as they are. And to get all the above right is not that easy!

You host an annual fundraising event in the community – how important has charity work been to you and the brand?

I love to give, it brings so much joy to people to receive financial help for the good they do for dogs and cats. As a business, we want to give back to the pets that bring us and our customers so much happiness and comfort. It’s important to prove that we care as a pet business and that we are willing to put time and energy into making all dogs’ and cats’ lives better. In turn, as a brand, we gain people’s trust and show that we are not just there to take and make a profit.

How big is your team now and how have you found recruiting for a brand like LMH?

We now have a team of 12 in front and back of house, recruiting has happened very organically – a friend of a friend, and we have a mother and daughter working together. People who share a common love of dogs and cats often drop their CV’s off as well. Throughout the years it has been a case of trial and error with some staff and now we have learned who will and who won’t fit into the team quite quickly.

In your previous career you’d designed for luxury design brands Jasper Conran and Shanghai Tang – how did that experience translate into building your own brand?

I learned so much from all my former employers and I have been very lucky to work for some very talented people with amazing leadership qualities – Jasper Conran, Alan Yau the founder of Wagamama, David Tang, and Victor Arzate, a wonderfully flamboyant designer from the golden age of film in Hollywood (he’s from LA) who counts Charles Eames as one of his friends.

Each taught me something valuable about design, commerce, visual display, tasteful aesthetics, practical design, bad design, good staff, bad staff, and the importance of being authentic and original. I could go on and on. Victor and his one-time business partners, Jai and Shalini Waney were my best bosses and I often think to myself what would they do in this situation?

What have you learned most from your journey and looking back would you have done anything differently?

I have learned that you can’t please everyone and not to take things personally, as part of the service industry people will expect you to serve them and occasionally be their therapist. I’ve learned about different types of dog owners, ones who treat their dogs like family, and ones who treat their dogs like accessories. And I try not to judge.

I’ve learned to bookkeep and the importance of understanding numbers even if you are creative and hate figures. Would I have done anything differently? I rarely look back at negative experiences. I just learn from it and move on, mistakes are a good thing to learn from, it’s very important to not dwell on them and bounce back as quickly as possible after understanding and processing them and vowing not to make the same mistake. Oh, one thing I would do differently is hired a good bookkeeper right from the start!

Growing a brand

Growing a brand

In conversation with Fenella Smith – designer of colourful homewares and accessories.

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