QD Stores to seek new Norfolk premises
The boss of fast-growing discount retailer QD Stores has announced plans to open further stores in Norfolk despite a tough start to the year.
Justin Farrington Smith, group managing director of the Norwich-based chain, said he was 'actively looking' for sites in parts of the county in which the firm is poorly represented, including the north coast.
The company has expanded rapidly in recent years, opening nine new stores in 2009, with further launches last year including branches in Holbeach, Saffron Walden and Wrexham.
It now operates 38 stores, most under the QD brand, but also five Cherry Lane garden centres, a Lathams store in Potter Heigham and Buyright in Hadleigh. A further garden centre is expected to open soon in Essex.
Mr Farrington Smith said: 'We are actively looking for sites now. They have got to be ones that make commercial sense, and all being well we will be announcing more later in the year.
'There are pockets in East Anglia where we have poor representation. We are not well represented on the north Norfolk coast, and we are looking for sites in that area.
'There are other towns in Norfolk which we will look to go into, and there are a couple where we are in negotiations.'
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The company, which employs about 1,000, last week reported record Christmas sales, up 3.8pc year on year, and Mr Farrington Smith said the firm was set to hit its growth targets for the year ended February 28, despite tough trading conditions.
The firm's 2009/10 accounts showed turnover of �57.3m, up �8.8m from the previous year, with a pre-tax loss of about �143,700.
He added: 'In 2010 trade has been tough but we have just about met our expectations.
'We have seen good results from some of our new stores, and are particularly pleased with our Cherry Lane garden centres.
'But from the beginning of this year we have seen a slowdown in sales.
'I don't think this is going to continue for the year, but the first six weeks of 2011 have been quite tough.
'This is partly due to VAT going up to 20pc and the general state of the economy.
'However, we feel well placed to increase our sales in the year ahead.'