Julie Oats, owner of The Grey Lurcher in Falmouth, started out at Liberty London and now sells homewares in Falmouth’s Old High Street
Tell us about yourself
My history in retail goes back a long way. I graduated from Brighton Polytechnic with a Textile Design degree, and my first job was in the silk department of Liberty’s of London. My abiding memory of that amazing store is that its staff were all from creative backgrounds, and like me loved selling beautiful products in a beautiful setting. It instilled in me a love of merchandising, great customer service and loving what you do.
Where are you based?
Falmouth’s High Street is an eclectic mix of small independent businesses, hidden courtyards, fabulous views, great bars and amazing restaurants. In 2017, no. 4, right at the very top – the last shop in Falmouth, it seems! – was vacant, so I made the decision to open a homeware and lifestyle shop. In 2020, just after the first lockdown, our present shop at number 20 came up for rent, just as our lease was about to expire – it was fate. This premises has a fabulous courtyard which is our new work in progress.
What do you sell?
I have filled the shop with homeware brands: Grand Illusions, Parlane, Bloomingville and Annie Sloan paints, to name a few. We stock also French soaps, candles, cards and artworks.
Where do you look for inspiration and new ideas?
I must admit I am a great magazine reader, I love all the homes and interior ones, and I spend far too long on Pinterest and Instagram. If I spot something new – a look, a colour – I seek it out. There are some great wholesale sites out there for small businesses, where you can buy small amounts from makers. We have a style that we can add new stock to, and it seems to work. People also come to me – last year, I was approached by a small company based in Lyme Regis that imports handmade ceramic fish from Sicily. When I saw them, I just had to stock them.
Which pieces are popular with visitors?
The nautical/coastal look is the summer go-to – people want to take something home that reminds them of this beautiful county. We tend to have a different feel in the summer, and I’m so lucky in having a small group of local makers who produce gorgeous pieces inspired by Cornwall.
What values are important to you?
The business has been built on good old customer service, which was one of the most important things I took away from Liberty. We don’t do a hard sell, and we take our time with people – we love to chat and get to know our regulars. We have a core base of return customers – stocking Annie Sloan paint was a wise move, as it also has given the shop nationwide exposure, especially with the ever-increasing number of younger customers who like to upcycle. When buying stock, I look for good value without compromising on quality. It’s easy to style a home with well-priced pieces and some creativity.
What trends are you noticing this year?
There are some lovely earthy products that I have my eye on: the colours, natural wood, chunky ceramics and lots of natural materials. We are building up lots of planters and gardening products too, we have a gorgeous courtyard that we hope will be full of garden plants this year.
What do you love about being in Falmouth?
I love this town! It has such a buzz of energy and creativity. We’re lucky to have so many small independent businesses, each one different – it is becoming a real go-to shopping destination. It is the same with food: the quality and variety of eateries is amazing, and long may it continue. Thanks to a long drawn-out house restoration, I don’t have a lot of spare time, but on a lovely sunny evening you can be sure that I will be eating out somewhere in the town, or having a quick pint or two.
Last but not least: why is your store called The Grey Lurcher?
It’s named after our beautiful lurcher Flynne, who is not as passionate about the shop as I am!