Jon Moss grew up in the 1980s and knew all the words to his favourite movies by heart. “I was mad about films, TV and music. My sister and I used to re-enact whole films, duets and things like that,” he laughs.
Today he is the owner of Home Of Retro, an online store selling all manner of goods such as fashion, toys, furniture, music and gifts. “I grew up loving everything from the 80s and early 90s because that was the era I grew up in.”
It was in the summer of 2013, while working for Tesco as a buying manager in charge of video games that he started developing the idea of the company.
The 39-year-old explains: “I just started thinking wouldn’t it be cool if there was a website that brought together everything that was great from when I grew up.”
He had even started thinking along the lines of: “Wasn’t it better in the old days – TV is rubbish nowadays” and wanted something that would take fellow retro-lovers on a trip down memory lane. “I wanted to create something that was wide-ranging, bringing back iconic things from my youth and stretch it to gifts and things for the home,” he continues.
To be clear, by “retro” Moss does not mean vintage or second-hand items; he means modern reproductions of retro-inspired things. “For my time-frame, anything between 20 and 40 years ago, pre-early 1990s is retro,” he explains.
The father-of-two launched the company in March last year, leaving Tesco a month later to go full-time. “It’s been a crazy year,” he admits. “I’ve learnt more this year than in my whole career. I knew about buying and cost and retail prices and marketing, but to understand about how that relates to your own business, it’s totally different.
“At Tesco, you’ve got that ready-made market and customer, but when you’re there by yourself and you’ve got to get people to your website, it’s a lot more difficult. “And when you’ve got something that you know sells really well and you’re out of stock of it, you’re going to be a lot more driven to get that product back in stock.”
It doesn’t sound like he would change it for the world. “When you’re doing something you’re passionate about and you love, you just want to work as hard as you possibly can to make it a success and I think that shows,” Moss enthuses. “Since I’ve been doing this, I jump out of bed in the morning and can’t wait to get stuck in.”
While he admits there are other websites that sell retro products, he says they do not specialise in the genre. “They also branch out into current pop culture. They might do clothing with some gifts, but our USP is we are a one-stop retro shop,” he explains. “We want to build a product that is not just about clothes, but gifts, a home and furniture range, CDs, DVDs, vinyl, record players, lava lamps, ghetto blasters… We want to be the home of retro and retro is something that constantly evolves and our customer is always evolving. In 10 years’ time, he or she’s going to be looking back at a different decade.”
Moss completed one year of philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire before deciding to go out in the world of work. He took a job at the Disney store as an assistant merchandiser, and then worked at House of Fraser, Tesco and Selfridges in different merchandising roles before returning to Tesco where his latest role was the video job. Despite the growth of online shopping, Moss says there are challenges associated with it, for example the “clinical” feel of shopping at companies such as Amazon, which Moss admits is an “amazing business”.
“For people who don’t go out to the high street any more, they can miss the experience,” he says. “We want to bring back that in-store experience to the internet. We want our website to be a trip down memory lane and, if you look at our product pages, we don’t just tell you the size and price – you’ve got photography, images, videos, blogs and you can read the trivia.”
There is a fun element to his website.
“We give everything a retro rating and we have a hall of fame rating,” adds Moss, who lives in Cockfosters and attends Old Farm Avenue Synagogue. “It’s about showcasing the products as well as trying to sell them.”
But Moss – whose company made it through to the shortlist of 50 companies being considered for the final 10 in the “grow” category of Richard Branson’s “Pitch to Rich” competition – says he also wants to take the company offline. “We want to take it into a store, to showcase the product and celebrate our past, show movie scenes, the games consoles you can play, have Raleigh Choppers hanging from the ceiling… We feel the subject matter we have is what you want to have fun with,” he says.
Indeed, the possibilities for the company’s future, Moss says, are endless. “The opportunity of where we can go, that’s the really exciting bit – we haven’t started yet. “Our mission statement is that we want to be the ‘home of retro’.
Whenever people think or search for anything retro, we want to be at the front of their minds. “Toys are a big focus for us – bringing back those 80s toys. We are also working on creating our own brand to be able to develop our own products. There are so many gaps in the market for things that I can’t buy that I’d love to have.”