Inside Sidmouth’s super-stylish and infectiously fun Crane and Kind

Polly McLachlan

Founded by sister duo Polly McLachlan and Jemma Lascelles, Devon’s Crane and Kind is best known for its bubble-gum pink façade, stylish product offer and high energy dance routine videos on social media. The physical store, which first opened in 2018, is positioned just moments from the sea in Devon’s Sidmouth. And with the aim to provide a shopping experience that makes people smile, its range includes vibrant ethically made goodies for the entire family.

The business began online in 2015 after the sisters spotted a hole in the market for stylish Scandi-inspired baby clothes and teethers: “Jemma was pregnant at the time and couldn’t find babywear she wanted to buy in the UK,” says Polly. “Shops and websites in places like Australia and Denmark had a much more refined offer that we felt didn’t completely disregard the parents’ taste. So, we decided to test the water by selling these types of products ourselves online.”      

Inside Crane and Kind

The sisters realised that merging their very distinctive skillsets created a formidable force. Graphic designer Polly, who has previously worked for Conde Nast, brings creativity, fashion knowledge and a strong eye for aesthetics to the table. Meanwhile Jemma’s background as a corporate tax accountant means she can take care of the numbers. “We have very defined roles and we’re very clear on who’s responsible for which area,” says Polly. “We don’t step on each other’s toes, and I think that’s why our partnership works so well.”

In the beginning the co-founders both ran the site from their parents’ spare room while continuing to work in their day jobs. But as the Crane and Kind brand flourished, they started to consider the possibility of opening a bricks-and-mortar shop and going full-time. “We knew a physical space would bring a new lease of life to the business,” says Polly. “We also wanted to engage with our customers in-person and create a sense of community.”

Coastal community

When the perfect unit became available in their coastal hometown, Polly said it felt like too good an opportunity to miss: “It had been a sweet shop for as long as we could remember, and we’d always admired the building from afar. It has a very traditional Victorian shop front with original curved glass windows. We just knew we could turn it into the most beautiful shop.”

After securing the unit and signing the lease, the sisters began bringing their vision to life. They carried out most of the refit themselves with the help of their father, Michael. Keen to create a strong brand identity, they painted the store’s exterior bright pink, much to “raised eyebrows around the town.” But their bold move paid off: “Coming from a graphic design background, I felt having a strong visual representation and point of difference was key,” says Polly. “We’re now known as the ‘pink shop’, so this is something we’ve definitely achieved.”

Crane and Kind’s product range includes everything from cute organic cotton baby grows and wooden toys for the kids to knitwear, candles and tees for mums and dads. Key children’s brands include Liewood, Bob and Blossom, Wilson and Frenchy, Marmalade Sky and Pigeon Organics. The shop also stocks jewellery, homewares and womenswear from labels such as Charli and Chalk. To complement its bold product selection, it also sells own-label Live Kind offering tees and sweatshirts featuring designs created by Polly.

Building on its digital roots, Crane and Kind continues to sell online too, proudly telling shoppers there’s “a little sea air in every parcel.” Today the revenue is quite evenly spilt across online and in-store, with an impressive 40 per cent of sales generated directly from e-commerce. Part of this is driven by transactions made via online indie marketplace Trouva, which Polly describes as its “bread and butter.”

Social media is a key part of Crane and Kind’s strategy – and it takes up a significant portion of time. Whether it’s coming up with new ideas or filming Instagram reels and TikTok dance routines, the sisters spend at least one day a week creating content. “We take a three-pronged approach and try to find a balance between telling the story of the shop authentically, selling products and having fun,” says Polly. “We don’t tend to plan too far in advance as we want to keep our posts fresh and react to trends. Plus, as we’re a small shop we never know what will still be in stock if we filmed or photographed products too far in advance.”

New direction  

With four years now under its belt, this season marks a brand-new direction for the indie as it unveils a fresh shop refit and expanded womenswear range. Polly says the scaling up of its adult clothing is largely down to changes in the childrenswear market: “It’s become much more competitive as more mainstream brands have improved their designs and fabrics,” she says. “Plus, in the past couple of years, the baseline price of baby and childrenswear has really crept up. We’ve been feeling increasingly aware of the value of people’s money now more than ever and so our buying considerations have doubled down to ensure products we sell will last through seasons, as kids grow or as hand-me-downs.”

Brexit has had an impact on the store’s brand roster over the past couple of years, too. Then there’s the added pressure of rising inflation and a cost of living crisis: “We’ve had to stop buying in some brands altogether because of the import duties,” says Polly. “Then material costs have increased, and some final product prices have doubled as a result. People are buying differently now. As a business you can’t stick your heels in – you have to be fluid. For us this presents an opportunity to try something new.”

Over the coming months the indie will integrate six new womenswear brands to its line-up, all sourced from Europe and Australia via UK-based agents. Polly says her aim has been to seek out lesser-known designers and pieces that will create a unique offering: “Whether it’s the detail, material or construction, I’ve tried to pick out unique pieces that are all a bit different and that I’d want to buy myself.”

Polly hopes the wider womenswear offer will appeal to tourists looking for a memento from their holiday: “East Devon is a destination for holidaymakers, and we got lots of tourists visiting the shop,” she says. “Whenever I go away, I like to buy a piece that’s special to that trip that I couldn’t find at home, so our range will hopefully appeal to that type of shopper, too.”

When it comes to choosing new brands and products, the co-founder says sustainability is always the default option for Crane and Kind: “I don’t think you can make a buying decision without being conscious in 2023,” she says. “These days it’s so easy to find cool products that are ethically made.”  

We are family 

Eighteen months ago, full-time shop manager Amelia joined the team – freeing up Polly to focus on strategy and buying. She continues to take on freelance projects as a graphic designer while sister Jemma straddles working for the family business alongside an external role. “Hiring a salary position was a big step for us,” says Polly. “But as the business grows you have to learn to invest both in terms of time and money.” A true family business, the sisters’ mum Judy also helps out on the shop floor while dad Michael has taken on the role of “maintenance manager.”  

Working closely with family members can have its downsides. However, Polly says these can always be turned into a positive: “As sisters we’re able to say exactly what we think. That can be a double-edged sword, but we’re always able to resolve any issue we have quickly. We don’t trust anyone as much as we trust each other.”  

Moving into 2023, the duo is feeling positive about the future. While Polly admits there’s an element of holding on in the current climate, they are very ambitious about what they can achieve: “You’ve got to dream big,” she says. “A second store and increasing our online reach would be brilliant. We want to establish ourselves as a destination. So, for now, we’re seeing where the next wave takes us – and we’ll be doing it one Tiktok dance at a time.”