The Mere Gallery
By Kate Marsden
We’re heading to the stunning Lake District today to visit a gorgeous gallery. Owner Helen Baynham has many years of experience, and has embraced the necessary changes brought by technology and the ways people now choose to shop. Read on to find out more about The Mere Gallery, while I plan that long overdue trip!
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
I’m Helen Baynham, I’m the owner of The Mere Gallery, a gallery promoting British Printmakers in Bowness-on-Windermere in the beautiful Lake District. I’ve been here in Bowness for nearly 6 years now, but previously owned Church Street Gallery in Saffron Walden, Essex, before moving up to the north west with my family 6 years ago.
What does a typical day involve?
I’m very lucky to be doing a job I adore! A typical day in the gallery is spent greeting customers, interacting with my artists and suppliers, creating my jewellery, maintaining the displays and window and general admin duties.
Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
The Mere Gallery isn’t your typical minimalist ‘gallery.’ We are a shop packed with beautiful items, everything we sell involves original prints…… as well as all the amazing artwork we sell screen printed t-shirts, lampshades, cards, giftwrap, books and much more. We also sell my jewellery, re-crafted from solid silver cutlery. The gallery is also my studio and I am able to do much of my creating while manning the gallery. When I’m not at the gallery or making jewellery, we love taking our adorable cockapoo Ozzy on family outings around The Lakes, we are so lucky living up here that we never run out of gorgeous places to go.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?
The main challenges facing shop owners seems to be the competition from online retailers. Luckily artwork still needs to be seen ‘in the flesh’ to fully appreciate it, so customers do still like to buy from a bricks and mortar gallery, but the high street in general is so much quieter these days, sometimes I can go for hours in the winter without anyone coming through the door. Another constant challenge is spreading brand awareness via social media, updating websites and email marketing. As a small business owner you have many hats to wear and finding time to keep up with all this is a struggle, but something that must be done to keep on top of your game.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
Over the next few months we are planning to re-brand the gallery. The business isn’t the same entity as it was when we opened 6 years ago, we have been constantly evolving with our customers over this time. I feel it’s time for a new name and updated identity! I say no more at present, but watch this space! I hope to keep on evolving as a business over the coming years.
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
To any small business owners / designer makers starting out, I would advise them to start off by keeping it simple, be careful not to let your concept snowball into something overcomplicated. Starting off is an exciting time and your head is so full of ideas that you want to implement all at once! Keep your brand identity and always make sure you have that unique selling point. Also, always listen to what close family and friends have to say. Their advice is always honest and invaluable.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
The Just A Card campaign only suggests a card as a purchase, but most shops have other small purchases that all add up if customers buy them throughout the day. My husband is the perfect example of a Just A Card customer…. He hates walking out of any shop without buying just a little something, otherwise he feels bad! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all customers were like him?!!!
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
The Just A Card campaign is so very relevant to my business. Artwork isn’t affordable to everyone and although all customers like to come into the gallery and look at it, only a very small percentage will purchase a piece of art, therefore it’s all those £2.50 card sales that really keep my business afloat.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
To support Just A Card, we need to follow and share and spread the word constantly. I use the #justacard hashtag as much as possible, there’s no such thing as overuse….. let’s get it trending!!