‘Individual service we offer helps set us apart’
Sue Hobbs of Mik’s Paints talks about the growth of her interiors business
Inside a small, unassuming unit on Mill Lane, Newbury, is an Aladdin’s cave of decorating delights.
Sue Hobbs has lovingly evolved her business from a small paint company into a one-stop shop for all decorating and interior needs and now has trade and retail customers visiting from all over the South of England.
“Mik’s Paints used to be just paints and wallpaper,” she explains.
“We would mix paint and sell wallpaper when we started and that trade sale is still our bread and butter.
“But we’ve now grown into offering everything under one roof.”
Mother-of-two Sue was “born and bred in Newbury”, and attended St Bartholomew’s School.
She spent most of her career working in computers and accounts, including as an accounts supervisor at the .
A change of career as her children got older saw her start Mik’s Paints in 2005 and, she admits, it was a hard industry to break into as a woman.
“It has been tough, especially getting suppliers to use us, particularly as there was another stockist just down the road,” she said.
Sue had always dreamt of expanding into fabrics and interiors and took the first step on that path when she moved to her current shop a decade ago.
When the adjacent unit became available she jumped at the chance to take it on too.
It was then down to her husband Mick – yes, that’s where the name came from and the fact that the company ‘mixes paints’ – to transform the units into the perfect showcase for the beautiful interiors she would begin to stock.
“We moved to Mill Lane for storage, but after we got here we really started to grow.
“It was like flicking a switch as soon as the frontage was opened up. It changed everything immediately and turnover started to increase.
“We’ve improved year on year since then.
“We have such a good crowd of trade customers that come to us; they’re very loyal and they’re a brilliant source of feedback on what good and what’s not.
“People assume we are just for trade and sometimes I think it scares them a bit, but we have three women working here and we can see how relaxed that makes some customers, especially women.
“We are open to trade and retail customers and welcome all interior designers and their clients into the shop.”
The other women in the shop are paint expert Sue Sanders and interior designer Claire Scott.
Sue Sanders, who has two children and five grand-children, joined Sue Hobbs after a chance meeting over a tin of paint at the till one day.
Having spent her working life at Crown Paints and Brewers, she was more than happy to answer Sue’s plea to help out a few hours each week.
The hours have grown somewhat since those early days and the two women are now a formidable pairing, with a detailed knowledge of the paints and products they sell.
Claire Scott, who lives in Newbury and has two children, is an independent interior designer who began working onsite, as Mik’s Paints began its expansion.
“Sue made a huge investment in books and now offers a full interior design service,” Claire explains.
“We can make curtains, blinds; all aspects of soft furnishings.
“We all just love the showroom at the back. It really has the wow factor.”
It is here that Sue’s dream of moving into interiors is realised.
The room is full of beautiful fabrics, soft furnishings, furniture and ornaments.
“It has been a massive investment but we will add to it bit by bit,” says Sue.
The addition of the fabrics and interiors to the shop means that they are now able to offer a full decorating service under one roof; from mixing the paint to match any colour of the customer’s choice, through the brushes and wallpaper, to the curtains and sofas.
“We can offer that little bit extra and that personal service is what is important,” she adds.
“If we don’t stock something, we will research it and find it.
“We do think we are unique in the area as we stock such a range of specialist materials all under one roof.
“It is a niche market but it is growing.
“People need to be able to see and feel the products and you can’t do that when you go online.
“The only way you can move forward is to become very specialised and to become a destination, where people want to come for your advice and knowledge, and that is our USP.”
Some of those specialist products the business is able to offer include paint ranges by Paint and Paper Library and Little Greene and an extensive wallpaper offering by companies such as Anna French and Nina Campbell.
It has a range of more than 1,500 colours of paint, brushes, rollers and all decorating sundries.
Mik’s Paints is also able to offer bespoke soft furnishings tailored to a customer’s specific requirements and budget and it is this interior design service that Sue now hopes to continue to grow in the future.
“It’s nice to hear people say they know Mik’s Paints and I think it’s the individual service we offer that helps set us apart,” Sue adds.
“Our reputation is building and that is good.
“People do come in and ask for Sue now, rather than asking if Mik is around.”