‘Incredible’ start for flagship store

Ian Davies with (from left) operations manager Shelley Parkin, lead associate Debbie Fearnie, lead associate Sam Imlah and sales floor manager Trish Liddle
Ian Davies with (from left) operations manager Shelley Parkin, lead associate Debbie Fearnie, lead associate Sam Imlah and sales floor manager Trish Liddle

THE boss of a flagship store says its first six months in town have been “incredible” – with the reception from Hartlepool shoppers topping any received by other shops in the chain.

Ian Davies, manager of the BHS department store, in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, said it is onwards and upwards as staff look forward to being around for the shop’s first festive season, having missed Christmas last year due to building delays.

Today marks six months since the stylish 35,000 sq-ft store, which provided a much-needed employment boost with 50 jobs, opened its doors and Mr Davies said things could not have gone better.

He said: “It’s been incredible, the reception we have had in the town and the support from customers has been an absolute delight.

“It’s been one of the more successful openings of our stores we have had in the whole chain and I feel really proud to be part of that.

“It’s really nice to be in a town like Hartlepool.

“We have had a great first six months, it’s been really successful – we have gone big in terms of what we can provide and given what the people of Hartlepool told us they want.”

Mr Davies added that when retailers refurbish and open a flagship store, they tend to identify larger, more established stores, but to bring such a smart-looking new store to the town had been “really satisfying”.

He said BHS was now concentrating on its back-to-school range and, come September, will be looking to take on more staff ready for the Christmas period.

“It’s exciting. Everyone we spoke to before opening said there was a real sense of disappointment that we weren’t here last Christmas,” added Mr Davies.

“It’s three or four months away and we are really looking forward to bringing a high-grade Christmas range with 2,000 sq-ft of dedicated space and all the ranges at the front of the store.

“Hopefully Hartlepool will become a destination where you can do Christmas shopping for the whole family.”

He said the store’s arrival was paying dividends on the centre as a whole, spurring investment in other shops, including the rebranding of JD Sports and Clinton Cards and Brighthouse and Home Bargains moving into bigger units.

“I guess it wouldn’t have happened without money coming from us,” he said.

“The centre is also being redecorated and being brought up to scratch, it’s about everything, not just BHS.”

Mr Davies, who has been with BHS for 14 years, including in Middlesbrough and Newcastle, said plans for 2013 are already in the pipeline, with strategies for providing more space for its Dorothy Perkins concession, introducing Dorothy Perkins footwear in the near future.

Mr Davies paid tribute to his staff, who have “worked incredibly hard” and are “now much more like a cohesive unit” since starting out in January.

He also said the shopping centre itself, as well as Hartlepool Borough Council, Jobcentre Plus and Hartlepool United, had been very supportive.

Shopping centre manager Mark Rycraft said: “We are really pleased with the response from customers and the way things have gone so far.

“BHS is a valued addition to the town and they have added other fashion lines to the centre.”

l Mail view: Page 8