Ben Woods, Business writer
Friday, March 21, 2014
Norwich welcomed a new department store yesterday when Boutique Fusions opened its doors for the first time.
Thomas and Kindi Tembo have transformed 25/27 Bedford Street – formerly Just Add Water and known to many as the old Hovells shop – into a five-floor store dedicated to up-and-coming independent traders.
The business, opened by the Lord Mayor of Norwich Keith Driver with a ribbon cutting ceremony, features 24 retailers across 12 separate departments, including women’s clothing, men’s clothing, a therapy room, an events space, a florist, a skin care section, underwear, homeware and soft furnishings, fine foods and drink, arts and crafts, children’s clothing and toys.
It comes after the latest
figures revealed Norwich had recorded its lowest shop vacancy rates since the start of the recession.
According to Norwich City Council’s latest Shopping Floorspace Monitor, the vacancy rate as a proportion of available floorspace in the city centre stood at 5.3pc this year. This compares to 9.3pc when the last study was made in January 2011, 12.4pc in July 2010, and close to the pre-recession level of 5.2pc seen in July 2007.
Mrs Tembo, who took over the building in December last year, said: “From a business perspective, many smaller retailers aren’t able to run their own store because it’s simply too expensive to rent premises and staffing costs are so high.
“We’re providing affordable retail space and a supportive environment where everything from staffing to marketing is taken care of by Boutique Fusions.”
Each trader takes home 100pc of their sales in return for paying a quarterly fee to cover business rates, rent, utilities and office space, she said.
“We can fit in another one or two concessions and will have a reserve list so we can always ensure the store is full of amazing products.
“The building is very old and listed and, while we didn’t expect the project to be easy, renovating the shop did unravel more problems than we expected,” she added.
“As a new business that was quite a challenge. But it’s all part of the journey of creating something new, from start to finish, and we’re delighted with what we’ve achieved so far.
“We chose the building because it is the perfect layout for a department store, with lots of separate sales areas. It’s also in a fantastic location. All in all it is ideal for our unique concept.”
Are you opening a new business? Contact business writer Ben Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01603 772426.