Fortune favours the brave, with several independent retailers bucking the trend and expanding by opening up additional shops.
Award-winning card and stationery retailer, Sarah Laker has branched out from her successful Stationery Supplies store in Marple having just taken on a second shop in Wilmslow.
Meanwhile, further south, Rachel and Paul Roberts, co-owners of Mooch in Northampton, Olney and Towcester, have ventured off the high street and just opened a fifth gift, card and homewares shop in out of town retail park Rushden Lakes in Rushden, Northamptonshire.
Sarah has taken over Stationery Solutions in Wilmslow, following retirement of David Hall who has owned the shop for 11 years.
“It might seem crazy expanding to a second shop during a pandemic,” Sarah adds, “but actually, it is perfect timing. People are swinging back to shopping local, they’ve valued their independent shops during lockdown and are voting for the kind of community they want to live in by supporting local business – A movement that is very close to my heart. In addition, so many people are working at home, popping into their local shop for items rather than ordering through the business account, small commuter towns like Marple and Wilmslow are starting to thrive.”
The existing Stationery Solutions shop is a part of the ‘Wilmslow retail experience’ and Sarah is looking to expand on that. She is rebranding the shop to Stationery Supplies and adding a trademark pencil planter in front of the window, creating an immediate and noticeable link between the two shops. Sarah will be keeping the management of the second branch ‘in the family, employing her eldest daughter, Molly, who, after learning from her mum, will go on the manage the new shop.
Some 130+ down the M6, Rachel and Paul Roberts have just welcomed a new addition to their Mooch ‘family’ of shops, with what is now their fifth store, and their first in an out of town retail park is now up and running in Rushden Lakes.
“We’ve been open for one full week now and we are absolutely delighted – it has surpassed all expectations,” enthuse Rachel and Paul of the new store which joins their store and concession store in Northampton and shops in Olney and Towcester, all of which have opened since May 2017.
Commenting on the recent expansion, Rachel explains: “it’s been exciting to be opening another shop, especially during such a difficult time. The things we sell are perfect to give someone a little pick me up, or for a little self-indulgence, something we think everyone needs at the moment.”
The couple, who were feted in The Retas 2019 greeting card retailer awards, had always planned to open another shop this year, but when lockdown happened the idea was put on hold. “However, it gave us lots of time to think and plan and we said that if the right opportunity came up we wouldn’t rule it out.”
When they were scoping out the viability of different options, the footfall rates at Rushden Lakes since re-opening in June were extremely encouraging, with some of the peak periods up year on year.
“Our town centre shop has had a dramatic decrease in footfall- largely due to office workers not returning yet – and we felt that an out of town retail park would lend itself well to give our customers a different option. There’s also a lot of leisure, restaurants and free parking on Rushden Lakes – all things that we think will attract customers who may be choosing not to shop in town centres.”
As in the other Mooch shops, greeting cards will feature in the product line-up. “We will have a strong brand presence of our favourites – Wendy Jones-Blackett, Five Dollar Shake, Counting Stars, Dandelion, Lagom, Heart Designs, Rosie Made a Thing and Redback. This gives us a really good selection of styles and price points so that we have something for everyone. We’ve also put a ‘box’ together so that we have a good selection of alternatives available, including some of the more obscure occasions. Feedback from customers has been amazing so far with lots of people saying how beautiful the selection of cards is,” said Rachel.
Commenting on trading in the new location in the run-up to Christmas, Rachel added: “I think we’re as nervous as anyone out there – but we feel that we have to continue to move forward and we think that adding a different style of shopping will help.”
She revealed that Christmas cards and decorations are selling well already. “We’ve had them out for a few weeks now and people are getting into the festive mood a little earlier this year. When we’ve been chatting to customers, they’re definitely shopping earlier for Christmas gifts this year too.”
Top: Sarah Laker left behind a career in nursing 15 years ago to take on Marple Stationery Supplies. She reached the finals of the Best Small Shops award in 2019 and won London Stationery Show Northern Independent retailer of the year 2020.