October 2 2014 Latest news:
Shaun Lowthorpe, Business editor
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
A corner of Norwich holds the key to the growth plans of leading independent retailer Jarrold as bosses contemplate expanding the brand through the city’s ‘Lanes’ district.
Peter Mitchell, group managing director of the retailer, said the firm was looking to cement its position in and around its flagship Exchange Street store with new openings earmarked for the Lanes quarter around London Street and Bedford Street.
He said the business, which had relocated the Pilch sports store from Gentleman’s Walk to London Street and also opened the Granary Store, a contemporary furniture outlet in Bedford Street, was looking at whether it could open other outlets in the area to create a cluster of stores with a feel far removed from national chains. Plans were still being drawn up, but the move could see existing in-store concessions moving out of Exchange Street into new stores or the opening of new outlets such as a bespoke furniture store.
He said the quirky and independent nature of the area, which is already home to a range of smaller stores, could lend itself to a stylised retail outlet attracting shoppers disillusioned with out of town centres.
“The retail business is based around the flagship store,” he said. “It’s not impossible, but I think it’s unlikely we are going to open another full size department store. This is a lovely part of the city. We are very pleased with how the Granary has traded. It’s slightly tucked away on Bedford Street. It needs interesting shops around it to attract people to the area. I think there is an opportunity for more of that type of business.
“We are always looking for ways to grow. That’s something we will do more of – building up our cluster. It needs to be interesting and entertaining and something different and more of a destination, something perhaps you would come to once or twice a year, but a store that you look forward to visiting.
“If you are looking for sales growth, sometimes you can sometimes achieve that by shuffling the deck. I think there are more opportunities in furniture. I think if there are two or three Granary buildings next to each other you could fill them with individual collections of furniture in far more interesting settings for people to look at than on industrial sites.”
The move comes as Jarrold announced it had established a foothold in Cambridge after acquiring the Hobbs Sports Shop in Sidney Street.
Mr Mitchell said sport could yield the key for the independent store’s bid to compete on the high street against major discount retailers, and the firm was looking to acquire similar businesses in other East Anglian towns.
“Pilch has moved forward to the point where we feel we can roll it out as an independent sports business,” he said. “Hobbs is the Cambridge equivalent. The Cambridge market is an exciting place to be. We have looked at a number of opportunities over the last couple of years, but felt this was right. It’s a slightly smaller business than Pilch but very much of the same ethos.
“Over the next year we will look for a third and maybe a fourth. We will always stay as a regional retailer.
I do think sport is an area which is underserved at the quality end of the market. It’s dominated by discounters that serve a large chunk of the market.
“It’s taken us a few years to work out how we compete successfully. Having gait analysis for runners looking for running shoes is the sort of thing you don’t find being done by the discount operators.
“Our growth as a business is coming through our online business, where we have got strong growth coming through, which is exciting. We are in positive growth trading in the offline business. I am certainly more optimistic now than I was 12 months ago about the perspective for retail as a whole.”
David Pimblett, onwer of Hobbs, said: “Hobbs Sports has been my business and a central part of my life for nearly three decades so it was not an easy decision to make when Jarrolds approached me with an offer. I will be leaving a great team in store, and I am confident that Jarrolds will take the Hobbs business forward, building on what we have achieved and doing so with the same ambition to be a high quality independent sports specialist.”
The words ‘I’m out’ too often spell the end for an invention before it has even left the drawing board.