ANNE SYKES has swapped black-and-white cows for home style, diversifying into running a high street gift shop.
Farming at Hambledon and Denmead in Meon Valley, Hants, the Sykes family retains a 130-strong dairy herd, and Anne plays a pivotal role in this long-established business.
But to support their farming enterprises, Anne and near neighbour Geraldine Keith have opened Inside Out, a stylish homes and gardens emporium in Petersfield. The pair work together to source many goods from UK artists and designers. And Inside Out has stylish accessories and gifts priced to suit all pockets, ranging from lamps, linen, ceramics and botanical prints for inside to garden tools, besoms and planters for outside.
“We stock Welsh woollen rugs from Denbighshire, stylish ceramics from Gloucestershire and English wirework in the Victorian tradition from craftsmen in Essex,” says Anne.
More cosmopolitan goods include English-designed alpaca wraps, scarves and cushion covers made in Peru, fragrance from Cath Collins and ribbons from VV Rouleaux.
“Customers appreciate us trying to do something different from the department stores. They love the individuality and they like to talk to the owner rather than being served by another faceless company employee.”
She advises other farming women considering diversification to go into areas of business of which they have some experience. “Go into something you know about,” says Anne, who has a strong background in design and retailing.
She opened a shirt shop in Winchester in 1988, but later took a career break. “I loved my shop, but retailing had to stop when I married Tim and had children,” she says. “We now have some of my original shop fittings here at Inside Out. By re-painting them in neutral colours we saved on shopfitting costs.”
It’s also crucial, she says, to feel passionately about your wares. “You have to like the products you are selling. It’s much easier then to talk to the customers about them. It comes very easily if you have a lot of enthusiasm.”
Anne and Geraldine, who have become an established part of the Petersfield retail community since opening the shop in June, will also be acting as “personal shoppers” for any men who are stuck for ideas for Christmas presents for wives or partners.
The mother of two opens up shop at 9.30am, before which she will typically have already taken her two sons to school and done some paperwork in the farm office. Christmas, however, is set to be the busiest time so far. “At least, we hope it will,” she laughs.