Browns bucks the retail trend with opening of luxury store

A FAMILY-OWNED Yorkshire firm is defying the gloomy retail climate by providing shoppers in market towns with luxury goods.

York-based Browns is creating 44 jobs by opening a department store in Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, which should reduce congestion by encouraging more people to shop locally.

Nick Brown, the company’s chairman and managing director, said Browns might consider opening more stores in other market towns, if demand all- ows.

The Gainsborough store, which is based in Marshalls Yard, will officially open on August 15, and sells brands such as Prada and Estee Lauder.

Mr Brown said the store would “beef up” the retail offering in the town by providing a wider range of products.

Although local people were proud of their shops, there had been quite a lot of “leakage” to shops in Lincoln and Meadowhall, Mr Brown added.

He added: “It’s a difficult time for retail, and it will be for quite a few years.

“There’s a lot of pressure on disposable incomes, and you have to work harder to get a share of the income that’s available.

“It’s not just a European problem, it’s a global problem. There aren’t too many retailers expanding, but we have been prudent and planned things methodically.”

Browns, which has been in business for more than 100 years, has department stores in York, Helmsley and Beverley.

Browns’ Beverley store opened in March 2010.

It is based inside the town’s former Picture Playhouse, which became a shop following extensive renovation.

Browns, which employs 230 staff altogether, has a turnover of £18m.

Mr Brown added: “We can take a planned, strategic approach as a family firm.

“You have got to have the right product at the right price.”

He said the firm was hoping to look at other areas where there was a possibility of trading opportunities.

The Marshalls Yard shopping centre is an investment owned by Barnsley-based Dransfield Properties, which specialises in retail-led regeneration projects.

Amanda Holmes, the head of communications at Dransfield Properties, said the company was delivering a retail line-up which is bringing shoppers back into the town.

She added: “Getting the right retail mix is crucial to the success of any retail development and having a store like Browns at Marshall’s Yard is very much a part of that strategy, and will really help to elevate the town as a retail destination.

“Obviously, things are much harder on the high street at the moment, but the feedback we get from our stores is that, as a result, they are working harder in store to attract and retain customers. Delivering consistently high levels of customer service has become increasingly important.”

Dransfield’s work was praised recently by one of the most influential figures in UK local government.

Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, said places like Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle are key to rebalancing the British economy away from London.

Sir Howard was speaking at a dinner in Sheffield to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dransfield Properties.

Sir Howard highlighted the way that Dransfield had helped to transform depressed neighbourhoods and give them a long-term future.

Actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley OBE also spoke at the dinner for 100 guests at the Millennium Gallery.

Miss Lumley described Dransfield as “an amiable octopus” that does some good everywhere it goes.

Dransfield Properties had net assets of £47.6m at the year ending September 2011.


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