Monday, September 30, 2013

News: Rotherham's Retail Matters

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The latest in a series of retail conferences and networking events at The Source heard from a number of Rotherham retailers, large and small, on why retail matters.

Based at Meadowhall, The Source Skills Academy is a flagship centre providing state of the art training and development facilities with a focus on the retail and service sector.

A Rotherham base opened on the High Street in 2011 with support from Rotherham Council and the Skills Funding Agency.

James Wilson, the Rotherham-born founder of retail business, We Love Sleep, shared his experience of online retail at his company that revolves around solving sleep problems rather than just selling beds and other products.

After a fire at its Sheffield showroom earlier this year, We Love Sleep is currently trading from RiDO's Fusion @ Magna business centre in Templeborough. James discussed how being online had saved the business, enabling it to continue to trade at home and internationally and gave useful tips to fellow retailers about trading online. He said: "If you are good at retail, you will be good online."

David Hanney, chief executive of Planet X bikes in Rotherham discussed the rapid growth of the company that was established by keen triathlete, Dave Loughran in the 1990s to produce dirt, jump and trials bikes. It specialises in internet sales and making bikes to order.

Previously of Sheffield retailer, Go Outdoors, Hanney joined Planet X last year. He said: "I saw a business with huge potential asking itself some serious questions about its future."

In the past year, Planet X secured a finance package from Barclays Bank, increased the number of employees from 50 to 100, brought back assembly from Taiwan to Rotherham and established NVQ training programmes with the help of The Source for its staff. It has also recently opened a new store in Barnsley to complement its showroom at its Templeborough HQ.

Kara Chapman described the journey her business, The Whistle Stop Sweet Shop, has gone on since it was opened in the Rotherham's Imperial Buildings in 2010. She told the audience: "The first year was our hardest ever where we were learning at our own cost. We moved forward in our second year whilst our third year saw the biggest move forward with new premises and expansion. I expect our fourth year to be a year of consolidation."

Doubling in size, the sweet shop opened the very first 21st Century temperance bar offering sarsparilla and cordials along with other fruit and sweet based drinks. Earlier this year it began offering sweet-making workshops and parties.

Tim O'Connell of Rotherham Investment & Development Office (RiDO), the regeneration arm of Rotherham Council, gave an update on the measures to improve the retail offer in Rotherham town centre. This includes the involvement in the government's Portas pilot scheme and the support to new independent retailers and the pop-up shop concept which is expected to expand down the High Street.

Tim said: "It is happening and it is delivering change. Footfall continues to increase, vacancies are down and we have seen a net increase of 44 businesses since 2010."

We Love Sleep website
Planet X website
The Whistle Stop Sweet Shop website
Rotherham town centre website
The Source website

Images: The Source

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