Written by Barbara Walshe
‘She’s responsible for the retro sweet revival,
boosting British pride, and has people popping into
John Lewis for a different reason these days.
Life may be sugar coated for Kitty Hope of
Hope and Greenwood right now,
but it wasn’t always the case…
Today, she’s a Fizzy Fang girl. Tomorrow, it could be
Cherry Lips and Custard Creams. Or Cola Bottles and
Toffee Bonbons. These are the kinds of decisions
you make when you’re one half of Britain’s biggest
independent sweet shop.
“We call it quality control,” laughs Kitty Hope,
better known as Miss Hope of Hope and Greenwood
(her husband being Mr Greenwood).
“Sometimes it’s chocolate, other times it’s jellies…
I have to make sure they’re all okay!”
With all that sucking, chewing and laughing at
Sugar HQ, the company’s head office in London’s
Battersea, it’s a wonder anything gets done.
Yet, in truth, that’s what’s behind much of their
success today. Because it’s Hope and Greenwood’s
ability to bring us back to our youth – celebrating
the childish fun of chewing a toffee one moment
and gobbling a jelly the next – that makes them so
And they’ve attracted some of the unlikeliest fans
as a result. Three months after launching their
first sweet shop in 2004, Terence Conran’s people
were on the phone talking about a collaboration.
“They love sweets! We’re often at their Marylebone
High Street store, setting up a sweet shop for
them there. We also do customer evenings
and support them in any way we can.”
Johnnie Boden, founder of UK clothing company
Boden, is another sweet tooth. Now writing a monthly
blog with recipes for their website, Miss Hope
reveals: “Rhubarb and Custard are his favourites.”
It’s little wonder then that, with fans like this,
the great and good have since come knocking.
Today, Hope and Greenwood has two stand-alone shops
in Dulwich and Covent Garden, but also a range of
concessions in top stores like Harrods, Selfridges,
Fortnum & Mason and John Lewis.
That’s just for starters. Ocado launched a Hope and
Greenwood online shop recently, and their first global
store opened in Japan in November after they were
actively pursued by the Japanese to do so.
But perhaps most exciting of all has been the launch
of their new home ware range in February exclusively
at John Lewis. With a style described as ‘Cath Kidson
with a sense of humour’, it might not have been a move
people anticipated, but in other ways it makes
Because Hope and Greenwood have never been just a
shop selling retro sweets – they’ve also designed their
own since the beginning. “We don’t like resting on our
rhubarb and custard laurels,” says Miss Hope,
“I’d rather combine the old with the new. So, whereas
our feet are firmly in yesterday, we do have that nod
to tomorrow with new sweets, and I love that we’re
carrying on the sweet shop to the next generation.”
It’s Kitty Hope that’s the creative genius
behind much of this. An illustrator by profession
(whose accolades include designing the Gruffalo),
she worked in the publishing industry and as a product
designer before discovering her true vocation.
This experience proved seminal in making Hope and
Greenwood what it is today. As an illustrator,
for example, she loved the design element but hated
the isolation. Now, she surrounds herself with 18
staff at Sugar HQ and countless freelancers.
Meanwhile, she keeps close ties with the publishing
industry, bringing out her third book this summer,
Miss Hope’s Teatime Treats, after her first two were
stellar successes - Life is Sweet and Miss Hope’s
But her time in product design, working for a large
lifestyle company undoubtedly had the biggest impact.
“It taught me exactly what I didn’t want
in my workplace. They ruled through fear and bullying
and I won’t have that here. Also, the products were
all about bulk. I wanted to get back to doing
something I was really proud of.”
Leaving their well paid jobs, she and her husband
knew immediately that Hope and Greenwood would
be a success. “The evening after opening the shop,
we went home, opened a bottle of wine and I said
‘We’ve unleashed a beast’.”
Partly, it was down to identifying a gap in the market.
But, a gifted trend forecaster, Miss Hope’s gut
instinct would also prove essential. “The day we
opened our shop, we actually had a row about whether
to put up Union Jack bunting in case we got our windows broken.
It was a sensitive thing back then. And I said
‘I don’t give a toss what the rest of the country thinks,
I’m British and I’m proud of it!’ I hope we
spurred on that trend.”
But their success is also down to more than that.
While their 21-year-old son, two stepchildren and
four grandchildren are often the inspiration
behind their sweets, they’re also hugely influenced
by their customers. It was them, for example, who
also came up with the idea for using old style
British Ration Books as gift vouchers, and they often
runs competitions for customers to name their new sweets.
But things can also turn bittersweet at Sugar HQ.
Working with her husband of ten years all day,
every day, can lead to bickering – even if theirs
is a partnership that absolutely works. “It can be hard,”
she admits. “We describe ourselves as ‘the accelerator
and the brake’. I’ll be pushing and innovating and
he’ll be pulling back and refocusing us on what’s working best.”
Meanwhile, work/life balance is ‘non-existent’,
admitting: “We wake up going ‘Did you send…’ and
the last thing at night, it’s ‘Have you done…’”
It’s why they recently hired managing director
Richard Ruddy, or ‘the headmaster’ as he’s known within
the company, freeing them up from the spreadsheets
and nitty gritty, to think up even bigger and better
things for the future.
With her new book out in June and their homeware
range launching nationwide in June, what could possibly
be next? Only Miss Hope knows, and she’s not telling –
which why she’s always ten steps ahead of the rest of
the industry. “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you,”
she deadpans. Then there’s a peel of laughter and she’s
off in search of more sugar.
Visit Hope and Greenwood for Easter eggs with a twist this month.’