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  • Writer's pictureElise Garner

Spotlight: Hunter Jones

For our first Spotlight reel from May, we spoke to Michael at Hunter Jones about all things business in Rye! Having started out business in London, this chat is a view into how his business and customer base has changed since moving here in 2011.

1. Thanks so much for talking to us! Could you describe your business to us?

When I first opened the shop, it was homewares, rugs, cushions and candles, but over time I’ve moved towards skincare and fragrance too, which is my background. So I’d say Hunter Jones is a homewares and lifestyle store with an emphasis on fragrance.

2. When was Hunter Jones founded?

It was originally founded in 2010 in London. My husband and I were painting furniture and selling it. We then moved down to Rye in 2011 and found a retail space on the Strand. It was very different to begin with, we were selling vintage stuff. Then we moved to the shop on Market Road in March 2018.

3. So, tell us about your background – how did it lead you to this business?

I’ve always been interested in fragrance. I think even as a child I used to ask my mother to buy me quality fragrances – when she probably wanted me to just settle for a bottle of Lynx!

I used to work in Harvey Nichols in the Beyond Beauty department and then after that, I started working as UK brand manager for Ole Henriksen, the Danish facialist. I did that for a few years and then I worked for the lighting company Mathmos – the inventors of the original Lava lamp. After that, my husband and I set up Hunter Jones, and when we moved out of London it was always with the intention of opening a shop here.

4. What sets your business apart from the rest?

I think the fact that I’m choosing everything we stock myself. It’s quite ‘me’... there isn’t much input from anyone else! When I first opened, the only shop on the high street doing anything similar was The Shop Next Door. I wanted to open something that wasn’t just for the tourist market, I wanted to offer something that was a bit more ‘London’. Of course, the high street has evolved over time and there are quite a lot of shops that have a similar ethos now.

We have our own range of candles, diffusers and soaps. I develop the scents and then we send them to our makers. When I’m developing the scents I have hundreds of little bottles of fragrance oils, natural plant extracts. Sometimes I’m inspired by another fragrance. One of our ranges, Dalt Vila, was inspired by a holiday – we were in Ibiza’s old town enjoying a perfect evening with friends and everyone smelled so good! It was a mixture of their scents and suntan lotion, sea, everything! So the fragrance I’ve developed captures that – it includes notes of sandalwood, cedar and iris, with leather, woodsmoke and vetiver and a little coconut and vanilla too.

Click the products below to shop.

5. What values drive your business?

I think – originality. I want to offer my customers things that no one else in town does. For many of the brands I offer, I’m the only stockist in the county. I also try to be as eco as possible – I’ll absolutely avoid products that come wrapped in plastic if I can.

6. What are your plans for your business in 2023 – what are you focusing on?

I’ve definitely realised in the last year or two that things change for the shop significantly from summer to winter. Christmas in Rye used to be quite sleepy, now it’s almost as busy as summer. In the summer I sell lots of sunglasses, and in the winter the slippers are hugely popular and will make a return this year. There are more fragrances coming soon too. I probably need a bigger shop – but that’s easier said than done.

7. What difficulties is your business up against this year?

My personal challenge is probably trying to work less! Staffing is a challenge when there is a big inconsistency between seasons as to how busy the shop is – I need more help when we’re busy but not much when we aren’t.

Stock prices have gone up in the last year, or if they haven’t, I’m braced for them going up soon. The raw materials for our own range of candles, diffusers and have all gone up too – but they fluctuate quite significantly so that makes pricing products challenging.

Finding suitable makers for our soaps and candles is also something that takes time.

8. What are you most proud of in your business?

It’s a difficult question, because honestly, most of the time I’m too busy feeling anxious about making sure I’ve made the right decisions for the business, for example, have I made the right product choices. Sometimes actually it’s the small moments that are when I feel proud – maybe when a brand wants to use our photography, or when parents visit.

One thing I am really proud of is my collaboration with another local business and

brand - Tillingham Wines. I created a diffuser for them with a scent based on their

herb garden. They have it in all of their rooms and public spaces as well as being

available to buy.

9. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone starting a business, what would it be?

I think it would be – get an accountant from day one. Even if it’s expensive – it’ll be worth it to save the stress of doing it yourself. I did our accounting for years before I got an accountant. Life is much easier with one!

10. What's the biggest change you’ve seen in your business or your business sector since you started?

The way I work within the business has changed – I don’t visit trade shows anymore. I do online trade shows instead – which have an international reach.

I think there’s been a shift environmentally too. The brands I work with like Haeckels are actively putting money into producing compostable packaging for example.

Rye has changed a lot in the five or six years since the shop has been here. The town is much more cosmopolitan.


Follow Hunter Jones on Facebook and Instagram. Watch the rapid-fire reel we did with Michael here!


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