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Retail Matters

Sheffield City Region - Retail Hub of the North...

In this issue: Five top tips for excellent retailing A traditional approach to growth Town centre retail in Doncaster Looking ahead to 2014 Focus on The Forge in Dronfield Retail Ambassador Programme launched

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Sheffield City Region

Retail Hub of the North...

Welcome… Retail Matters This edition of Retail Matters focuses on growth, looking at the ways in which some of our wonderful Sheffield City Region retailers have grown their businesses during the last decade and finding out their plans for 2014. It comes as no surprise to me that all of the retailers we are featuring in this edition attribute their growth, at least in part, to business strategies which have placed high importance on providing excellent customer service, and it is fantastic to see the success which they have achieved.

In October I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Meadowhall Retail Awards, and was delighted to see further evidence of the fantastic customer service being provided in the Sheffield City Region. As part of their assessment for the Customer Service Award, Meadowhall had arranged a mystery shop encompassing over 200 stores based at the Centre. The results were outstanding with over 20 retailers achieving full marks. My congratulations in particular go to Virgin Holidays, who beat stiff competition to claim the award, and also to Nina Telford from Beaverbrooks and Emma Wright from Goldsmiths who were commended at an individual level for their commitment to customer service. Customer service was also a running theme at our second Retail Matters Conference, which took place on 27th September and featured speakers from Marks & Spencer, Welcome to Yorkshire, the Rotherham Retail Investment Team and local independent retailers such as

the Whistle Stop Sweet Shop. The event was a fantastic success, attracting over 100 delegates from 70 organisations from across the Sheffield City Region. We have been delighted with the feedback from attendees, 96% of whom rated the quality of the event, speakers and networking opportunities as good or excellent. We will be working hard during the next few months to prepare for the next conference, which will take place on 19th March 2014 at The Source Skills Academy. This will provide a further opportunity for retailers to share their fantastic success stories, helping to raise standards across the industry and firmly establish the Sheffield City Region as the Retail Hub of the North. I will look forward to seeing you there. Ann Cadman Vice Chair of the Sheffield City Region Retail Forum and Director of The Source Skills Academy

Five top tips for excellent retailing From Owen Gleadall, President of Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce

What are the key challenges facing independent retailers in the Sheffield City Region? Is that the $64,000 question? I have to say that the answer isn’t rocket science as some would have us believe. Most of the issues are actually of our own making. As I travel around the country visiting retailers of all sizes in all sectors I meet the good, the bad and the indifferent. Often, as soon as I walk through the door I can tell there are problems, whether it is the general layout, dirty or unkempt windows, tired and tatty display material, or disinterested staff. Having spent over 35 years working in the retail sector I decided to put all my thoughts down on paper and recently launched a book entitled ‘You don’t get many drugs for a cauliflower’. I accept the title is rather unusual but I assure you that all is explained inside. So here are a few tips taken from this publication: 1. Visual Merchandising is vital to catch the eye of the shopper as they approach your shop and once they get inside. 80% of customers veer right when entering a shop - so what

does your shop say in that vital space? There should be something eye catching and memorable that they can immediately respond to. Use the 'pyramid' approach to draw the customer's gaze to the right areas 2. Stock increases in cost for every day it remains unsold. Clearly, not in actual cost but in heating, lighting and handling. Know your worst selling lines and get rid of them. 3. How ‘green’ are you? Think of ways to improve your carbon footprint. What about 1p per bag for charity? Every time a customer brings their own bag, drop a penny in the charity box. It saves you the cost of the bag and can get you great publicity in the local press. People today are increasingly supportive of initiatives that help 'save the planet'. What can you do to contribute and entice them into your store? 4. We all want more profit and prices seem to be falling everywhere. Just remember, it is

far easier to increase profit by reducing costs than trying to sell more products. At least you have control of all the costs. 5. Finally, look at the service you offer. We all go to Disneyland and drool about the quality of service we experienced but then return home and do nothing about it in our own establishments. Make top quality service one of your main priorities.

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Sheffield City Region

Retail Hub of the North...

A traditional approach to growth From Cllr Simon Greaves, Leader of Bassetlaw District Council

Bassetlaw’s towns of Worksop and Retford may not enjoy the same retail pull as their bigger Sheffield City Region neighbours, but by making the most of their heritage we have allowed these traditional market towns to ride out the storm of a recession-hit economy. Our markets have been one of the driving forces behind Bassetlaw’s survival, and when Worksop welcomed a state of the art cinema complex two years ago on the old market site, some forward thinking from the Council helped traders to relocate onto the high street and spark a reinvigoration of our town centre. While the relocation was initially met with opposition and criticism in some quarters, the following years have seen the market thrive, with a return to full occupancy rates on all three days. This has helped to increase footfall and stimulate growth on the High Street and we now have an empty shop rate of just 9.7%, compared to the national average of 14.5%. In addition, the Council has recently invested more than £700,000 in Worksop’s High Street to improve the overall shopping experience, replace street furniture and modernise the working environment for traders. Retford has also benefitted from significant investment

with a facelift to its picturesque market square. Possibly the biggest success story has come from ‘Totally Locally’, a band of independent retailers. Having been established around two years ago with the help of High Street Innovation funding and the Council, these passionate entrepreneurs have taken the bull by the horns and are determined to boost growth, footfall and investment in their town centre through events, promotions and sheer hard work. We are also investing in our rural towns and villages where retailers and residents are helping to decide how funding and grants should be spent on their High Streets. Despite these success stories, there is no room for complacency and we will continue to work with the local business community to ensure these upward trends continue. For example, we are currently working with landlords on an enterprise grant scheme that will provide

incentives for businesses to fill our remaining empty shops. We have plans to roll out superfast broadband across the district to ensure that web-based retailers do not get left behind, and we have just completed a survey of residents to establish how we can improve the district’s night-time economy. While Bassetlaw has used its traditional assets as the basis for growth, we firmly have one eye on the future to ensure that our district continues to flourish.

Town centre retail – the Doncaster approach From Cllr Ros Jones, Leader of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

With its Georgian and Regency architecture, a wide variety of shops and excellent transport links, Doncaster provides a unique retail experience for shoppers. The bustling town centre continues to maintain a top fifty national retail ranking and Javelin Venuescore, Europe’s leading annual retail ranking list, puts the town not far behind that of nearby Sheffield. With over 700 retail businesses in the centre offering an impressive 186,000 square metres of floor space - not including the town’s extensive markets Doncaster is very much in the big league for shopping. The modern malls of the Frenchgate Centre, which have doubled in size since 2006 and are anchored by one of the country’s largest Debenhams department stores, are lined with top names. Equally important are the wealth of small businesses that contribute so much to the distinctive appeal of the town, and Doncaster Council has worked in partnership with local businesses to rebrand and raise the profile of the town. With almost 14 million day visitors a year (more than Bath, Blackpool and Cambridge) Doncaster’s visitor economy is now worth £400 million per year.

When people visit Doncaster they see that we have so much more than shops. We have invested in our award-winning markets, and helped to introduce over thirty pavement cafes with buskers, street entertainers, fairs, parades and events. A major highlight of our calendar is the St Leger Festival Week which features hundreds of events across the town including a music festival in the market place. Our magnificent markets, which are mostly under cover in a sequence of historic listed buildings and have been at the heart of the town for 800 years, are widely regarded as among the best in the UK and attract shoppers from far and wide. We receive around a thousand coach trips each year, demonstrating the broad appeal that such a distinctive attraction can have. On the other side of the town centre, Doncaster Council have recently moved into a new Civic Office next to Cast, the country’s newest theatre, as part of the Civic and Cultural Quarter development – a £300 million pound project which is benefitting the town

centre. With plans also afoot to transform the Waterdale shopping centre, which has recently been bought by developers St Modwen, and a £1 million investment planned for our outdoor markets, 2014 promises to be another exciting year for retail in Doncaster.

If you are interested in advertising in Retail Matters or submitting an editorial feature, please contact us for further information. Contacts - Martin Howard - t: 0114 265 6655 e:

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Sheffield City Region

Retail Hub of the North...

Sheffield City Region retail sector looking to grow in 2014 The future of the Sheffield City Region retail sector is bright. The sector currently has an economic output of over £1.6 billion and employs approximately 79,000 people1. The Local Enterprise Partnership has predicted that the retail sector will continue to defy difficult economic conditions during the next 12 months and create over 500 additional jobs2 . This month, Retail Matters takes a closer look at some of the retailers who have helped the Sheffield City Region retail sector to grow, and discusses their exciting plans for 2014.

A ‘Proper’ approach to growth In 1999, inspired by the fresh taste of Cornish pasties during regular trips to the sea front in Cornwall, Sheffield born and bred John Worrall decided to use a period between jobs as an international sales director to set up a pasty shop in Sheffield. John’s Proper Pasty Company now has 15 shops across the UK and has even supplied pasties for Prince Charles’ Duchy Originals range. John says, “The Cornish pasty is a national institution which traditionally has a highly practical purpose – tin miners in the 1700’s would wrap the previous nights meal in pastry and hold the thick crimped edges whilst eating to avoid being poisoned by the arsenic sometimes found on their fingers. I knew that if could I could establish a business selling pasties in Sheffield it would take off, and I have been delighted by the way in which we have grown during the last 15 years.

now sell 5,000 sandwiches per week across the UK through our mobile business. “Yet I think the main reason for our success has been maintaining the quality of our product and the ethos of our brand throughout our growth. The word ‘proper’ really resonates with customers and we have ensured that this authenticity is always embedded across our operations. All of our pasties are still made in Cornwall using high quality ingredients before being distributed across the UK where they are baked fresh in store, and we have taken food on the move to another level by investing in the best quality vans and maintaining the high quality of ingredients. “We are planning to grow our mobile business further in 2014 and quality will still be firmly at the heart of everything that we do. I am incredibly proud of building The Proper Pasty Company up from nothing and will be working hard with my team to ensure that we are still making customers the best Cornish pasties in the UK.”

“I attribute our growth to an excellent team spirit and a willingness to move with the times. We have always made a conscious effort to react to the changing demands of our customers and identify new opportunities within the market. In 2007 we decided to expand into wholesale, and now supply our products to over 40 organisations across the UK including theme parks, stately homes and cafes. Our pasties are now even sold in the Windsor Farm Shop owned by the Queen. “We have also reacted to feedback from weekend customers visiting our flagship Sheffield store. Customers loved the pasties but couldn’t get to the shop during the week, and we therefore decided to establish a mobile side to the business, using vans to take our product to the customer. We now supply to major banks, South Yorkshire Police, and garages across the region and, having also diversified our product range,

John Worrall from the Proper Pasty Company

The original Proper Pasty shop in Sheffield City Centre

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Sheffield City Region

Retail Hub of the North...

Retford retailer batting on the front foot Long-time partners Michelle and Mark Shevill opened Batting 4 6, a specialist cricket shop, in Retford in April 2011 as a first step towards establishing a centre of excellence for cricket. Two and a half years on, Michelle talks about how Batting 4 6 has achieved 200% annual growth, promoted involvement in grass roots cricket, benefited the local Retford community and created ‘cricket heaven’ in the Sheffield City Region. Michelle says, “Mark and I have always had a clear plan for Batting 4 6, starting with our decision to locate the store in Retford, which has a high density of cricket clubs in the surrounding area. We have subsequently placed high importance on outreach activity with the local community, investing a great deal of time and resource into building relationships with local cricket clubs and schools, including organising events and donating a percentage of any sales generated back to local cricket clubs. To date we have donated nearly £10,000 back into the cricket community. “We made a conscious decision to locate the store on the high street, rather than out of town, and offer a complete and interactive experience to the customer, helping us to

offer an excellent level of customer service which cannot be rivalled online. During the last two years we have expanded the store considerably and invested in an indoor interactive area, allowing customers to try out our high quality products using a bowling machine. This has also opened up opportunities for school visits to the store and birthday parties for up to 12 children.

“Finally, we have exciting plans for an anniversary event this coming April involving local clubs, schools and also, fingers crossed, international cricket players from England. It is shaping up to be an incredibly exciting year at Batting 4 6. I am delighted to have created something which our customers refer to as ‘cricket heaven’ and we will be working hard next year to establish our long term goals.”

“Batting 4 6 really adds value to the high street and, thanks to increased exposure through our revamped website, we now attract customers from across the North of England. This is particularly pleasing for me as I am also currently secretary of the Retford Business Forum. I therefore fully appreciate the benefits of attracting customers to Retford, helping to stimulate economic growth, support the local community and boost other independent businesses. “In 2014 we will be working to consolidate our growth and increase the profile of grass roots cricket within the local area. We are keen to increase our coaching work with local schools to ensure more youngsters receive quality coaching at an earlier age, and will continue to engage clubs on the importance of coaching children from the age of four or five, rather than seven as many currently do. This will help increase participation in cricket and ensure that we look after our future customer base.

Michelle and Mark Shevill collect the Successful New Business Award at the North Notts Business Awards in 2013

Children at the Batting 4 6 store in Retford

Moving up the gears at Planet X Templeborough based bicycle retailer Planet X has achieved growth of 50% during the last 12 months, with investment in staff and systems helping the organisation to compete with conventional High Street brands. The organisation now sells thousands of bikes per month to customers across the globe through a cutting edge website and stores based in Sheffield and Barnsley. Planet X Chief Executive David Hanney says, “I have four rules for retail growth, which I would encourage any retailer to apply to their business. The first rule is to ensure that the product is right. We have ten mechanics working around the clock to assemble customised, innovative and desirable bikes, and have built excellent relationships with our suppliers to ensure we secure the best possible price for the customer. 1 2

“Never underestimate the importance of delivering excellent customer service. A high proportion of our sales are generated through the internet and we have recently expanded our call centre to help support our online customers, as well as implementing services to engage customers such as a section of the website where they can share pictures of their customised bikes. It is also crucial to recruit the right staff and invest in training - Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, had so much success because he spotted and developed talent. “The third rule relates to having a clear organisational blue print and business plan. I would encourage all retail business owners to write down their purpose and vision, paying particular attention to the values of the business and the identity of the customer. It can be incredibly useful to consult experienced industry professionals during this process who can help with the identification of blind spots in the plan and offer advice on how to overcome these. David Hanney, chief executive, and Barry Dunn, chief operating officer, at Planet X'

“The final rule is to back your winners and feed the fire. The retail industry rewards those who are bold and brave, and the most successful retailers identify what is hot and invest resources into expanding that area of the business. Similarly, it is important not to be afraid to trial new products. My experience at Planet X has shown me that things never stay the same in the retail sector, but by thriving on change you can achieve fantastic growth.”

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Sheffield City Region

Retail Hub of the North...

Focus on...The Forge at Dronfield This month Retail Matters focuses on The Forge Shopping Centre in Dronfield, a unique collection of boutique style shops providing a wide array of innovative, unique and exciting local products and services for customers. Established as a shopping centre in 2004, and set within the beautiful grounds of a 16th Century forge just two minutes walk from Dronfield train station, The Forge has flourished during the last decade and now boasts one of the most diverse retail offers within the Sheffield City Region. Here, independent retailers based at the Forge discuss the five factors which make the shopping centre so enchanting.

1. The diverse range of shops There are 24 independent retailers based at The Forge, branching off the central conservatory café run by Ferndale Garden Centre and sitting snugly in little nooks and crannies. With specialist boutiques offering local food, clothing and lingerie, fresh flowers, interior design, handbags and wedding gifts, there really is something for everyone to discover. Teresa Elliott worked at independent fashion boutique Crystals before buying the business with her mother Pauline Heselwood in July 2013, and says, “The community feel of The Forge really sets the centre apart. We have a wonderful range of different retailers and the shops compliment each other really nicely. I am good friends with all the shop owners here and we work together to go the extra mile for the customer. Charlotte Gray, who owns The Falling Feather Boutique here, gift wraps fashion accessories bought from my shop and it is these little things which really make a difference and ensure that our customers come back time and again”. 2. The fantastic customer service Julie Burgar owns Scissor Scissors Hair & Beauty Salon, one of three independent retailers which have been based at The Forge since its inception, and has seen the fantastic impact which the centre has had on the local community. She says, “The Forge is built on

land which had been derelict for several years and was traditionally quite an eerie place. The development has breathed life back into the local community and I have really enjoyed being a part of that. I have gained so much joy from growing my business here and I put our success down to my fantastic team of staff, a loyal local customer base and the excellent customer service which we provide – even though many of our customers are regulars we treat everyone as if it is their first visit.” Another Forge retailer to place great importance on providing excellent customer service is Claire Freeman, the owner of Soft Options Interiors which has been based at the Forge for the last nine years selling made to measure soft furnishings. Claire says, “All of our products are made in our on-site workroom by highly experienced staff, some of whom have been with the business since its inception 27 years ago. Our staff are incredibly passionate about the business and we always go the extra mile for the customer. We recently ordered some fabric for a customer which looked very different to the brochure. As the customer was elderly and had arthritis, I agreed to call at her house on my way home and show her the fabric and check that she liked it. These little things really do make a difference.”

3. The commitment to the local community All of The Forge’s retailers are passionate about their local community and work throughout the year to raise money for local charities. Rachel Fleming, owner of Lily B’s, has been at The Forge for three years selling designer accessories and says, “We also do as much as possible to support the local community.

During Victorian Weekend last November all the retailers dressed up in Victorian clothing and ran activities to raise money for charity. We raised over £1,000 for Bluebell Wood Hospice and Ashgate Hospice, helping them to offer specialist support to children with a shortened life expectancy. Whilst we attract visitors from across the UK, The Forge is indebted to the local community for their support, and all of the retailers here understand the importance of giving something back.”

4. The passion for retail In November 2012, harbouring dreams of setting up her own gift boutique, Charlotte Gray visited The Forge to meet her friend for coffee. She never looked back. Charlotte, 23, says, “I fell in love with The Forge’s quirkiness during my first visit and remember feeling at home immediately. That evening I rang the landlord and found a store available to rent and I just went for it. The deal was completed within three days and I set up my business, The Falling Feather gift boutique, within four weeks with fantastic help from my partner and family, including sourcing all of the suppliers and decorating the shop. I absolutely love the retail sector, and I think my passion for my business has been crucial to its success. Customers now look for something a bit different when they shop, and they really understand the care, attention and dedication which has gone into each of the home made cards in my store. The Falling Feather name really means a lot to me. I am asked every day by customers what The Falling Feather name means. It holds sentimental meaning for me and this makes succeeding all the more important and worthwhile. The Forge is such a hidden gem, and I can’t describe the feeling of realising my dream of owning a successful business here.”

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Sheffield City Region

Retail Hub of the North... 5. The willingness to change and the friendly atmosphere Life for retailers has not always been plain sailing over the last decade, and the longer established retailers at The Forge have managed to run successful boutique shops during difficult economic times. Debbie Wilde, owner of Wilde Flowers,

attributes the success of her shop to a willingness to move with the times, saying “I have worked hard to adapt my business to the changing needs of customers during the last nine years, developing a delivery service, focussing increasingly on weddings and funerals, and growing a professional consultancy service.

For more information about The Forge visit

Knowing that I have created something special for a wedding day really does bring its own fulfilment, and I wouldn’t wish to work anywhere else – The Forge has a lovely family feel and the other boutique owners are amongst my best friends” Noele Abdullah, who has owned several successful shops at The Forge during the last eight years and recently opened a Children’s Boutique after spotting a gap in the local market. She says, “My Children’s Boutique has only been open a few months but I have been delighted with the reaction from customers. All of the clothes stocked here are from a local English label and I am finding that customers are returning time and time again. I started my life in retail by opening a hair and beauty shop on Eccleshall Road, and whilst that is a beautiful area of Sheffield, The Forge offers something completely different. Customers will often remark that they feel as if they are on holiday, and I put that down to the friendly atmosphere here. The other shop owners really do feel like family to me, and I am incredibly proud to be able to work alongside them to continue the success of The Forge.”

Retail Ambassador programme launched by Sheffield City Council and Master Cutlers October saw the launch of the Retail strand of the Master Cutler’s Made In Sheffield initiative. This new Retail Ambassador programme aims to engage, inspire and motivate students (aged 14-19) and their teachers by connecting learning in schools and colleges to the world of Retail. This employer led initiative will result in young people having the skills that Retail employers are looking for. The programme brings together four important elements: • A skills framework developed with employers; • A menu of opportunities and activities connecting learning to the Retail sector; • A project-based school and college

Retail Ambassador students at the launch event in October 2013

curriculum linked to real challenges in the Retail sector; • A skills passport developed with and recognised by employers, colleges and universities. The project is being delivered by The Source Skills Academy in partnership with Retail employers, Sheffield City Council, Meadowhall Shopping Centre and Westfield School, Meadowhead School and Longley Sixth Form

College who have signed up to take part. Dianne Wainwright, Head of Operations at The Source Academy, says, “We were delighted by the student’s response to the project at our launch event in October. All 45 students were declared Retail Ambassadors and over the next few months they will be following a programme linked closely with the retail sector. This will incorporate direct involvement from retailers through the provision of work experience, project based activity and seminars delivered by business leaders. “All aspects of the programme have been codesigned by schools, employers and universities, providing a radically different approach to learning which is closely connected to business and industry. This is incredibly exciting as it will help to ensure that the young people leave school with the skills that employers need, increasing their chances of securing employment. Through this approach we aim to build confidence, trust and respect between the retail sector and schools and colleges and provide students with a radically different approach to learning.”

If you are a local business and would like to find out more about how you can get involved in the Retail Ambassador project and support young people across Sheffield, please contact Dianne Wainwright on 07793 308851 or

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Sheffield City Region

Retail Hub of the North...

Sheffield City Region retail trainer named best in the business The Source Skills Academy’s Paula Windle is celebrating after being named the National Skills Academy for Retail’s ‘Trainer of the Year' at the Retail Week Rising Star Awards 2013. The Retail Rising Stars Awards recognise individuals who have demonstrated outstanding talent, aptitude and initiative in their roles, and the Trainer of the Year award highlights the finest retail trainer from the 50 National Skills Academy for Retail skills shops around the country. Paula has worked as a trainer for The Source for six years and beat competition to scoop the national award at the ceremony, which was held at the famous Grosvenor House in London. Paula works with retail mangers and top brands across Yorkshire and was recognised for her knowledge and excellence in training delivery. Judges commented that Paula's passion and enthusiasm for retail was clear to see. In addition the judges were particularly impressed with the positive impact which she has had on the local community through various projects co-ordinated alongside the Local Authority.

Delighted at winning the award, Paula said: "To be recognised as retail trainer of the year at such a prestigious awards ceremony is amazing. I have worked in retail all of my working life and I'm so fortunate to be able to pass on my knowledge to others. I love working with retailers from the big brands to the smallest of independents and seeing them develop and grow their business." Dale Robinson, Head of Communications at The Source Skills Academy said: "Paula is a great asset to the retail industry and our business. Her recent work helping the retailers of Rotherham Town Centre has been inspirational and has already resulted in some fantastic improvements. Everyone at The Source Academy is incredibly proud of Paula's fantastic achievement." Paula Windle collects her award from Theo Paphitis

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Retail Matters, fifth edition  

Highlighting Retail Excellence in Sheffield City Region.

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