Festive inspiration from a literary goddess


by Camilla Ridley

Less than two weeks to go!!! But don’t panic, My wonderful friend, literary guru and founder of the marvellous Mainstreet Trading Company Ros is here with inspired advice for great gifts and getting through the calamity of Christmas

ridleylondon-luxury-designer-made-to-order-milly-silk-shirt-dress-blog-image-rosamund-de-la-hey-the-mainstreet-trading-companyLiterary guru and owner of The Mainstreet Trading Company Ros de la Hey pictured in a Ridley London luxury silk Carnival Milly shirt dress

Once again Christmas is almost upon us. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be on the hunt for great last minute gifts, sensational stocking fillers and inspiration and courage to see you through the frenetic festive fortnight. Don’t fret, expert help is on hand in the shape of one of my oldest, dearest and most brilliant friends Ros. And I don’t use the term brilliant lightly. Having started her career in publishing Ros quickly rose to become Children’s Marketing Director at Bloomsbury and was responsible for launching and growing the incredible JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series. In 2008 Ros left Bloomsbury for the Scottish Borders and established her amazing culinary and literary emporium The Mainstreet Trading Company with her husband and foodie Bill. Over the years the shop has won numerous prestigious awards including Independent Bookshop of the Year (British Book Awards), Deli of the Year (Farmshop & Deli Awards), Best Bookshop (Telegraph Best Small Shops) and this year was named Britain’s Best Small Shop.

As an expert retailer, what do you think makes a great Christmas gift? 

I always love presents that combine things – so, perhaps part of the present is a bag or pretty box which contains a myriad of goodies themed to work together. But it can be as simple as a paperback book ribboned together with a beautiful bar of Rococo chocolate.

What’s the best Christmas present someone's ever given you?

Now that’s really tricky! The one that springs to mind most recently is the gorgeous Lumio fabric book light my husband gave me last year. I’d spotted them in The Conran Shop months earlier and he cleverly took note.

The Mainstreet Trading Company has an incredible selection of books, gifts and gastronomic treats. What are the top 5 little luxuries on your list for this year?

  • Apiary Made - Organic, biodegradable cotton & beeswax food wraps, a stylish and ecofriendly alternative to cling film

  • MOA Fortifying Green Bath Potion - Heavenly peppermint, fennel and fir needle bath oil to soothe muscle and mind

  • The Writers Map - perfect for anyone who loves immersive fictional worlds and so pretty

  • Montgomery Cheddar - our perennial favourite raw milk British cheese, delicious with crab apple jelly

  • Linen Tales pinafore apron - made by a small independent company in Lithuania, in a myriad of beautiful colours


Having launched The Harry Potter series with JK Rowling, Ros left Bloomsbury to start The Mainstreet Trading Company with her husband Bill. Ros is pictured here in a made to order Ridley London Milly silk shirt dresses

If we're thinking about the lovely men in our lives, is there anything really unique you've come across for them?

  • Smoked Spiced Rum from Edinburgh distillers Sweet Dram

  • Oak Cheeseboard & Knife from Creamore Mill in Shropshire

  • Stoneware tankard from Somerset's Muchelney Pottery & a bottle of Burrow Hill Cider

  • Opinel folding pocket knife for keen gardeners and foragers alike

The Christmas best Sellers list seems to get longer and longer every year. Can you advise our readers on any outstanding books they really shouldn’t be without?

Too many to list, but here’s a selection from our Books of the Year:

Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber)
Brilliant new literary talent, coming of age with bite, hugely readable, acute and touching.

Take Nothing with You by Patrick Gale (Headline)
Beautiful coming of age novel, told with the drama & lyricism of the cello itself.

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben MacIntyre (Random Hse)
Utterly gripping, true story of KGB agent who spied for the UK through the Cold War.

Educated by Tara Westover (Random Hse)
A heartbreaking, fierce, intelligent, hugely readable memoir that will live with you for years to come.

A Honeybee Heart has Five Openings by Helen Jukes (S&S)
A beautiful, lyrical story of the therapy that lies in getting your own beehive. My best read of the summer.

Time by Gill Meller (Quadrille)
Beautifully produced celebration of time spent the kitchen, with gorgeous recipes and lush photography.

I Am the Seed edited by Fiona Waters (National Trust/Bounce)
Beautiful child friendly poetry book beloved of teachers and parents alike.

Old Toffers book of Consequential Dogs by Christopher Reid (Faber)
Delicious companion volume to TS Elliot's Practical Cats with gorgeous 50's style illustrations, it's on my wish list!

Wilding by Isabella Tree (Macmillan)
Fascinating and timely story of a farm that went back to the wild, and made a roaring success of it.

I’m sure like many parents with 11 plus looming, I’m desperate for Emmanuelle to read more. Are there any really brilliant Brilliant Books you can recommend for Kids?

And here’s a selection from our Children’s Books of the Year:

Dragon Post by Emma Yarlett (Walker)
Delightful tale of a little boy and his dragon ‘under the stairs’ – full of wise and funny advice sent by post. If you love your dragon, let it go…
The Rescue of Bunny Wunny by Emma Chichester Clark (HC)
Deliciously witty tale of a rather spoilt little girl and her long-suffering Bunny.
How Winston Delivered Christmas by Alex T Smith (Macmillan)
An intrepid mouse heads off on an advent adventure – set to become a family Christmas favourite.

A History of Pictures for Children by David Hockney (Thames & Hudson)
Engaging and very accessible art book for children (and adults)
Letters to the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll (Faber)
Hugely readable WWII fiction with a very contemporary resonance.
The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay (Macmillan)
Coming of age on the home front – for fans of Dodie Smith and E Nesbit – just gorgeous.
Fire, Bed and Bone by Henrietta Branford (Walker)
An old favourite, beautifully repackaged – life in fourteenth century England told from the point of view of a devoted hunting dog.

Survival by Nicola Singer (Hodder)
Sea-levels in Britain have risen, Scotland has become a sanctuary. The plight of refugees made all too real for YA readers.
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean (Usbourne)
Based on a true story set in 1727, off the island of St Kilda – extraordinarily vivid, dynamic storytelling – rec. adults to read before you give!

While Christmas is a period of fun and celebration, for many it can be a time of stress or sadness. Are there any books you can recommend for these times?

How to be Human by Ruby Wax

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Plus a good dose of Nancy Mitford – reliably funny


Ros de la Hey pictured in a luxury made to order Ridley London Teal Juno Vinia wrap dress in the Mainstreet Trading Company's home section

Your time at Bloomsbury was obviously amazing, especially your work with Jo Rowling on The Harry Potter series. Her incredible story is obviously well documented, but is there anything that really sticks with you about her and this time?

When Philosopher’s Stone was sold to the US for over £100k (a record at the time for a children’s book I believe), we had the idea of pitching it to the news pages. Children’s books rarely gained review coverage, let alone hit the news pages, so an interview with Nigel Reynolds on P3 of the Daily Telegraph lit the touch paper for what followed. There is of course a much bigger story here, but perhaps this gives a hint of where it all began.

Like me, you took the plunge and started your own business with your husband which I think we both know has many wonderful upsides as well as well challenges. What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt so far and what advice would you give to your younger self or someone thinking of starting out on the entrepreneurial road right now?

  • Don’t be afraid of spreadsheets, they are your friends

  • Do plan ahead – is this a business you want to run for ever and hand down to your children, or do you plan to build up something to sell on

  • Find a brilliant book keeper

  • Work with people you like, even if, at first, they don’t appear to have the right qualifications for the job, and beware, employing staff is one of the most time-consuming job for any business owner

  • If you do end up working with your partner, make sure you have different, but complimentary skills


Ros wears one of our Ridley London luxury printed silk pink Prospect Isla blouses pictured here in the fantastic cafe in The Mainstreet Trading Company

Social media is now such a big part of what I do. is this the same for you and are there any influencers out there that you think are really brilliant?

Social media is important for the book world, but not in quite the same way as fashion. Seeing the impact on your business of fashion bloggers, this is more comparable to the attention publishers seek from book bloggers, but is less directly relevant to booksellers.

We use social media (mainly Twitter and Instagram) to communicate with our customers, authors we are promoting or hosting for events and publishers. For us, it’s about expressing the personality and taste of the shop. Individual influencers in particular are not part of our social media channels, but that said we feel very much a part of the influential small business community online.

The online support we have from our suppliers allows us to be part of a wider conversation and gives us the opportunity to engage in topics we believe in. This is certainly true for the food and drink industry and for our homeware suppliers, many of which are tiny independent businesses. We are able to tell their stories through the power of social media whilst simultaneously giving a visual taste of life at Mainstreet. The #shoplocal movement is merry band of inspiring small business owners!

Have clothes and fashion played and important part in your story so far?

Clothes have always been important to me - thinking back on the early days at Bloomsbury, I remember advice from a friend that it was best to dress in smart jackets etc. if you were after a promotion!  This may sound frivolous, but there was some truth in the idea of putting on clothes as armour in the 90s, to demonstrate you were serious about the job.  The role of bookseller/business owner has a rather different aesthetic, softer and less formal, but it is still important to find a look that works for the shop floor which may well be simply jeans with a more fitted shirt.  We introduced a sort of uniform for our café staff a year ago - a Breton style t-shirt with a Mainstreet linen apron.  It does give a more 'put-together' feel in the café space, which, rather in the way my Bloomsbury suit style did, adds a sense of clarity and efficiency.

The closest I get to uniform myself these days is probably the dress & little cardie look which is super easy to wear, while also appearing smart enough.  We don't have a fashion offering as such at Mainstreet, but our homeware department is all about lifestyle, the background detail, be it an elegant basket from Bohemia or beautiful products from new supplier Moa.

I’ve always thought you were incredibly stylish Ros. Is this sense of style innately personal to you or is it something that has evolved over time? What are the key fashion lessons you’ve learnt? 

I think it’s taken me a really long time to find out what suits me best, I didn’t even know to dye my (semi-invisible) eyebrows until I was 37! Personal style does evolve over the decades of course, but really it’s about finding the clothes that flatter your figure, and buying for the long term. I opened my wardrobe to my 15 yea r old daughter the other day and found myself explaining that many of the party dresses inside were over 20 years old (some closer to 50, being my mother’s!) – she was amazed.


The Mainstreet Trading Company's fabulous Deli is run by Ros's husband Bill and his team and features an increadible collection of produce sourced from a selection of local and specialist producers.

What’s your favourite festive outfit this year?

What else but my fabulously luxurious silk shirt dress from Ridley London, the fabric is so beautiful and goes with everything – day or night.

Finally Ros, do you have any tips for a really great Christmas?

Always allow time to just sit and do absolutely nothing in front of the fire.

Whether you're in Scotland for Christmas or happen to be passing through The Scottish Borders, The Mainstreet Trading Company is located in St Boswells and is definitely worth a visit. Visit their website for more information.

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