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Mungo and Maud interview in the bira member magazine Jan/Feb 2019
By bira

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Dogged devotion to style at Mungo and Maud

When Nicola and Michael Sacher could not find dog products to suit their own home, they started a business that now serves the cream of department stores around the globe. Welcome to the stylish world of Mungo & Maud.

MUNGO & MAUD sells products for dogs and cats, but it is hardly your average pet shop. This premium-level business is better described as a lifestyle store for people who own dogs and cats. It’s the requirements of human customers that concern Michael and Nicola Sacher.

The husband-and-wife team got the idea for their venture almost 15 years ago when they could not find products for their first dog, George the English setter, that suited their own home. They wanted something stylish and tasteful as well as functional. The choice was almost non-existent.

Michael recalls: “What we wanted were stylish well-designed accessories to fit in with the environment we had created in our home. When we looked around, we soon thought we must be able to improve, in design, fabrication and quality, what was available. Nicola started to work on design, we had them produced and it all took off very quickly from May 2005.”

Named after a fictitious dog and cat – “We liked the way Mungo & Maud sounded” – the business started with a shop although trading online was added soon after. Luckily, in retrospect, the couple did not get the first unit they were targeting. “I was absolutely dead set on a certain location in Chelsea, but we kept hitting snags with it. One day a friend suggested Elizabeth Street in Belgravia. It was such a lucky turn of events for us. We opened there 13 years ago.”

Just off Eaton Square in the heart of one of London’s most exclusive residential areas, Elizabeth Street boasts a delightful stretch of mainly upmarket independent businesses. Mungo & Maud’s neighbours include Royal florist Moyses Stevens, celebrity milliner Philip Treacy, premium perfumery Les Senteurs and luxury cake maker Peggy Porschen.

From its compact 300sq ft corner shop, Mungo & Maud soon caught the attention of Harrods, which is located less than a mile away. The Sachers have had a concession there for 10 years and has been Harrods’ sole specialist supplier of dog and cat accessories since the store closed its own Pet Kingdom five years ago.

“Harrods approached us. It’s a great opportunity when something like that happens,” Michael explains. “Although close, the two locations serve very different markets. In Elizabeth Street we have our core of local regular customers, augmented by tourists and people from other parts of London, plus lots of over-seas customers, some of whom may live in London for part of the year.

“The huge benefit from Harrods, apart from serving its many customers, is the exposure it gives to potential wholesale customers globally. It’s a very effective high-profile showcase for us.”

 Mungo and Maud interview in the bira member magazine Jan/Feb 2019

Mungo & Maud’s stockists include or have included premium department stores such as Holt Renfrew in Toronto, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Brown Thomas in Dublin, Printemps and Le Bon Marche in Paris and Isetan in the Shinbuku district of Tokyo. The business has had a distributor in Japan for five years. It also sells to some premium lifestyle stores around the world.

“Last year we were asked to do a pop-up store in Jelmoli, the innovative department store in Zurich, and that has led to a permanent presence there. Typically, we are positioned in the homeware or gift-ing areas of a store – and there is usually nothing else like us on offer.”

High-profile collaborations have included projects with Mulberry, US denim brand Paige, Peanuts for Snoopy, and Kingsman, the film franchise connected with Savile Row.

Virtually everything Mungo & Maud sells is exclusive to the business, with books the obvious exception. Nicola is the creative director and the products are made mainly in the Far East or Europe. It is, unapologetically, a very premium offer. The largest dog bed is £279.50, plaited leather dog collars are £117.50, and a six-piece catnip-filled Choco-chip Cookies Cat Toy Set in felt is £25. It even has a dog fragrance, Petite Amande, at £45.50 for a 50ml / 1.7fl.oz bottle for those owners who don’t enjoy the aroma of, say, a damp pooch.

“I can see why some people would regard these as high prices, but we care about what we make. Everything is done to the highest standards and we work only on reasonable margins,” says Michael. “We also take into account practicality when designing products. For us, it’s about the people, who live with or know a dog or cat, not just the creature. Our customers have a certain lifestyle and they want to buy our products because they fit in with how they live their lives, how they perceive themselves and the things that surround them.”

Leads, collars and beds tend to be best-sellers, but Mungo & Maud also offers beautifully-made toys, accessories like soft wool blankets at £199 and practical clothing such as a quilted dog coat at £149.50. It also has organic dog treats like pumpkin-flavoured biscuits at £17.95 for 350g / 12.3oz, which are presented in a hessian drawstring bag.

Mungo & Maud is run as a tight-knit family business with a strong and compact team. Just over 12 months ago, the Sachers took the plunge and updated four old systems to achieve one integrated IT system. “We moved the website to a Magento platform, which nearly killed us,” says Michael, slightly wincing at the memory. “I researched the market and eventually took a best-of-breed approach across the inventory, accounting and Epos functions. We found that was the best solution for a small company like ours.

“Despite the delays in implementation and the considerable headaches it all caused, it has been worth it as it’s allowing our people, including me, to do better, more interesting work.”

The attention to detail and the cheery corporate identity at Mungo & Maud is impressive. Nicola’s career before becoming a designer for the brand was directing television commercials. Michael had more grounding in retailing as his grand-mother was the daughter of Michael Marks, the co-founder of Marks & Spencer. She married Harry Sacher, a lawyer who was a director of M&S from the 1930s onwards. For a period in the 1990s Michael worked for what he refers to as “the family firm” before fulfilling a desire to run his own company with Mungo & Maud.

The business has had a dedicated website for North America for six years, as well as the main website, which was set up within a year of the brand’s debut. So, how much does Michael know about his customers and communicate with them?

“We know a lot about them, but the question is what to do with the information. We have a small group of customers who spend a great deal with us, so we are keen to keep them satisfied. We have almost never done any paid advertising, but we have used a mixture of in-house and agency PRs. Last year we stepped up our social media activity. We contact all of our customers once or twice a month with our email newsletter.”

The focus for the business going forward is to expand into more global markets. Michael’s retailing mantra is a sensible one: “Listen to everyone’s opinion, then go with your own mind. Pay attention to what works. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on.”

Mungo & Maud

79 Elizabeth Street,
London SW1W 9PJ
bira member since: 2005

mungoandmaud.com
Instagram: @mungoandmaud
Facebook: @MungoandMaud

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