Huge demand for hampers helps famous store end 2020 on high

Shane Woolston and acting MD and chairman of CT Baker Group, Jane Gurney-Read, together with staff a

Smiles before lockdown in what was a 'challenging' year for the CT Baker group. Pictured here is, on the right, acting managing director and chairman of CT Baker Group, Jane Gurney-Read, with staff at CT Baker Budgens of Aylsham, presenting a cheque to Jo Sims and Charlotte Phillipo from Redwings Aylsham. - Credit: Archant

The boss of Norfolk department store Bakers and Larners said sales were down because of coronavirus - but given a surprise perk from food hampers.

Sales of the baskets full of goodies, emblazoned with the renowned black B&L lettering, were 50pc up on last year at the store in Holt.

Jane Gurney-Read, chairwoman and acting managing director, said as a result the store had delivered a "solid" performance over its 250th celebration year.

This came despite the challenges of both lockdown and the devastating fire at the firm's supermarket, Budgens in Holt in the summer.

Bakers & Larners of Holt. Pic: Archant

Bakers & Larners of Holt. - Credit: Archant

"Our food hall was allowed to stay open. Our hamper sales were way up on expected, a lot more, because people wanted to send a special gift to loved ones in lockdown."

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In total the firm had made 15 staff redundant out of 275 last September, she said.

"I am not unhappy with how the year has ended: given all the challenges, we had a solid performance. Sales were down but not massively," she said.

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She also said that the department store had been bolstered by other arms of the CT Baker business; which owns Bakers & Larners as well as four builders' merchants, a Budgens in Aylsham and the one in Holt.

After the fire, a new temporary 5,000sqft store opened in November. Apart from the department store, the other arms of the business were allowed to trade throughout lockdown.

businesswoman against red background

Jane Gurney-Read, chairwoman and acting manager director, Bakers & Larners. - Credit: CT Baker

Mrs Gurney-Read said the firm was now focusing on rebuilding Budgens in Holt, with planning permission granted for a new replica store.

She hoped this would be open by next January-February but confirmed the temporary store would remain open until the new one was up and running.

She said she was looking forward to being able to give the staff a postponed 250th birthday party when possible. 

"It has been a very challenging year. We started it so well but then we had the first lockdown in March and then the fire in June. However, we are pretty robust because of the diversifications of the business and our online sales have been strong too."

Former managing director Michael Baker died in July 2019 after working for 45 years to put the renowned family business and Holt itself on the map.

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