How Domestic Science owner Libs Lewis has created an inspiring indie group with a captivating mix of brands and products

Opened in 2011, Cotswolds-based lifestyle indie group Domestic Science offers an eclectic mix of contemporary and vintage products inside quirky stores. Each product is hand-picked by former antiques dealer Libs Lewis who chooses products she loves over what she thinks will sell. With three bricks-and-mortar stores and a growing e-commerce business, the indie stocks fashion from the likes of American Vintage, Birkenstock, Rains, Becksondergaard and Mads Norgaard. Here we speak to the owner to find out what makes the Domestic Science shopping experience stand out…

What is your career background? 

When I was 21 years old, I co-owned a house clearance business alongside a shop selling our finds for about 10 years. I’d always had a passion for old things and clearing houses was an amazing way to find some gems. I then joined up with two school friends and ran an antiques and interiors shop in Tetbury for another 10 years. After running the business for about a decade we decided to go our separate ways in business while remaining friends. I decided to mix new everyday products that I loved with vintage pieces – that was the beginning of Domestic Science

What is Domestic Science’s USP?   

I guess it’s that you never know what you are going to find here. You may discover a product that you haven’t seen since childhood. Or if you visit to buy a present for someone there’s something for everyone. The mix is incredibly diverse and the thread joining it all together is that I love every product we stock.

Has your business model changed at all since it first opened? 

Yes, definitely. As the years have gone on, I have become much more conscious when sourcing new products as it’s become more important to find sustainable and fair-trade items. The store’s offering has changed too; I decided to buy in clothing made by a tiny company in Dorset to complement our homewares and was surprised by the positive response from our customers. Now clothing is one of our biggest departments.

How would you describe the in-store shopping experience?

Some say it’s an assault on the senses! There is so much to look at and all the soaps and scented candles give the shop a wonderful aroma. Everything inside the shop is displayed on vintage furniture such as work benches, old wooden filing shelves and school lockers. all of these are familiar to most people so there is a very nostalgic and familiar feel to the shops. Two out of three of our shops also have an in-house café, so there’s usually delicious smells coming from the kitchens as well.

What are your best-sellers?

I would say that candles are one of our best-selling products, I guess because they get used up! Cushions are also popular as well as soap, Soap dishes, tea towels, vases and vintage pieces. We sell a little bit of a lot of products every day.

Where do you do your buying?

I buy from literally all over the place. Some things are made very locally to me or from around the UK. We sell products made in Scotland, Wales and Ireland alongside others that might come from India and Bali, plus a lot from France , Italy, Spain and Scandinavia.

How do you choose products?  

Buying is easy for me. When I first look at something I either like it or I don’t. I trust my gut; that certainly comes before wondering if people will buy it.

Who is your target market and does this differ at each of your stores?

Probably women between 30 and 70 but then we sell to a lot of men as well. Our customers are as diverse as our range of products.

Why did you choose Nailsworth for the location of your first boutique?

I love Nailsworth. It has a lovely mixture of society all living alongside each other and it is a liberal-minded place to live. I first opened there because my husband owns the building and suggested I took over when the previous tenant handed in their notice. It was also his idea to open a café in the Nailsworth store and it’s created a much nicer shopping experience.

How did the pandemic affect your business?

While the shops were closed we had no income. It did allow me time to think as usually every day is fairly fast paced and not much time to reflect. We did have an e-commerce presence, but it wasn’t very well populated with products. The first lockdown allowed us the time to improve the website and get many more of our products online, which was obviously a great help for Christmas sales plus the next two lockdowns. Also the grants and furlough scheme have really helped.

Why did you decide to open a third store during the pandemic and how difficult it was it to manage during the lockdowns?  

Opening a third shop was the last thing on my mind, but then I received an email from a regular customer in the Tetbury shop who I’d never met. He had bought an 11-unit building in a courtyard in Stow-on-the-Wold and propositioned me. He had a vision of how he wanted the courtyard to be and thought Domestic Science would be a good fit. So I went along to meet him and look at the premises, deciding pretty soon to go ahead. We decided to make some changes to the premises during lockdown, so it was actually the perfect time to get the builders in.

How would you describe the latest store?

The new store is the little sister of the Tetbury and Nailsworth branches. It’s just a one up one down unit, so offers an edit of the stock we offer at Domestic Science. It has had a really good response in the town so far with both locals and visitors.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

The plan is to grow the e-commerce side of the business and put more systems in place to streamline the business. We have just taken on an old mill in Stroud for use as warehouse and office space to allow this to happen. I am optimistic about the year ahead and we shall need to recruit more people to allow us to continue to keep up with the growth.

And what about plans for the future of Domestic Science? 

I would like to begin to have our own lines of some products, but that all takes time and a lot of thought. Who knows, one day there might be another baby sister – watch this space.