By shaun lowthorpe Business editor
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Norfolk-based DIY specialists Coopers has moved to counter pressure on the trade sector brought about by the downturn with a historic move to open on Sundays and strengthen its retail business.
The family-run firm, which has been trading as a limited company since 1932, took the plunge to switch to seven-day trading at its five stores along the Waveney Valley in a move marking its ambitions to boost its growing retail business.
Managing director Phil Tate said the firm, which has a £5m a year turnover and employs 70 staff, now opens each of its five stores in Great Yarmouth, Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and Leiston on a Sunday.
The firm had also taken on 10 extra staff, two in each store to help with the increased workload, as a result.
“We knew it had to happen one day and we’ve been seriously considering it for 18-24 months,” Mr Tate said. “It’s mainly because of the economic challenges but also changing shopping habits as more people turn to DIY.
“Our Harfreys Estate branch in Great Yarmouth used to be principally for trade but the business is now 60-40 in favour of retail. And couples or families want to visit shops or showrooms together, particularly when it’s for such things as bathrooms, showers and tiles. Sunday is often the only day they have time to do that.
“It’s also true that, sadly, the recession has taken its toll on the number of tradesmen around.”
Mr Tate said the company had reshuffled the team to ensure there was always highly experienced staff available to give help and advice to DIY customers on Sundays.
“This is the fifth week, and every week has increased,” he added. “It’s had a really positive impact on the market towns in which we operate and it’s also stopping people going further afield.”
Mr Tate said the firm was also looking to invest in the business and expand its gardens section at its Great Yarmouth store and also add a coffee shop.
“People are spending time coming in and looking around and for the next season we are to looking to expand our garden section,” he said. “You can sit back and say ‘the recession is here and it’s hard times and bunker down’, but we are looking for other positive opportunities. We want to open a coffee shop at our Harfreys store and we have a post office in our Halesworth store, and we are working with the Post Office to expand that.”
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