Wells and Winter

A Devon home-based business is now selling its niche products in all five continents of the world.

Nigel and Iris Horsey, from Bickington , South Dartmoor, have been running Wells & Winter for the last twelve years.  Specialising in unique quality plant labels, export sales now account for twenty per cent of turnover and customers include royalty.

No other retailer sells the zinc labels for which Wells & Winter has a worldwide reputation.  Introduced during Queen Victoria’s reign and hand-tooled in the UK, they reputedly last a lifetime and are loved by gardeners across the globe.

The Horseys are keen gardeners themselves but it was a chance encounter at a Royal Horticultural Society show that set them on course to become successful entrepreneurs.

“I describe what we’re doing as my fourth, most enjoyable, career,” said Nigel, who was in the Royal Navy, based at RNAS Culdrose, and whose family come from Cornwall.

“Iris was on a stand at an RHS event selling some pretty things when we got talking to the lady next to us who was selling labels.  It turned out that the business was for sale.  We were interested so she introduced us to the owner Sir John Wells, a former MP, who was then 79.  He recognised the importance of going online but didn’t want to make the transition himself.  My last job had been working with a dot com company so, even though Iris and I had no experience of retail, we decided to take the gamble and buy Wells & Winter.”

It turned out to be a life-defining move.  The couple set up a website, added additional products to the range – including decorative tin plates for al fresco dining that have proved an enormous hit – and established themselves in the horticultural market place.

“We get a lot of repeat customers and have seen profits grow year on year,” said Nigel.  “Plant labels remain our core business, accounting for fifty per cent of sales, whilst our tin plates now bring in ten per cent.  We still go to shows, too – both in the UK and Europe – because it’s still important to be seen.”

For more information, visit www.wellsandwinter.co.uk