The high street is not dying but changing, meaning retailers have to adapt and provide more of an experience, according to the founders of a home decor business.
Leeds-based Dowsing & Reynolds, which launched in 2012, has enjoyed year-on-year growth as an ecommerce business.
However, co-founders James and Ally Dowsing-Reynolds opened a store in the Victoria Quarter last September.
The couple say that the store is not just about adding sales but also providing potential customers with an experience.
Mr Dowsing-Reynolds said: “We’re going through a change in the fundamental retail environment.
“Whereas previously you had to go into town to buy your pens or something like that, anything functional, the likes of Amazon have taken that market.
“Why do you come into town now? It’s all about the experience. This is particularly why we’ve done this store because it’s about the experience.”
He added that flexibility was also key to surviving the fluctuations on the high street, something that a lot of larger retailers struggle with.
Dowsing & Reynolds, which today employs 53 people, designs premium fixtures and fittings. As well as the shop in the Victoria Quarter, the business has a warehouse in Meanwood.
Mrs Dowsing-Reynolds said the shop is there to both sell products and give people a chance to go away and consider their purchase.
She added: “Obviously, people are going to buy direct in store and that’s great. But we know that people will also be coming in and treating it a little bit like a showroom as well.
“It is a considered purchase. You do want to go home and think how many handles do I need, how many sockets and then you’ll place the order online. We’re fine with that.
“It’s however the customer wants to buy from us. This place is here, whether they want to buy or just experience.”
Prior to setting up the business, Mr Dowsing-Reynolds was buying and selling liquidated stock on eBay.
“I was doing exceptionally well until I pretty much put all my eggs in one basket and it was just a slow selling basket,” he said. “That’s what made me rethink things.”
Mrs Dowsing-Reynolds added: “I’m glad it was otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Mr Dowsing-Reynolds studied garden design and has always been creative. Mrs Dowsing-Reynolds has a background in digital marketing and built the first website for the business.
As Dowsing & Reynolds has grown, it has become easier for Mr Dowsing-Reynolds to focus on the creative aspects of the business.
The Leeds-based firm has seen like-for-like growth every year and turnover currently stands at £4.6m.
However, the couple are cautious when it comes to expanding the business as they feel there’s an added responsibility for them given that they now employ over 50 people.
The business is not at the mercy of fluctuations in the housing market because people still want to make home improvements regardless of whether they move or not, the duo say.
However, the recent General Election did cause a slowdown costing the business £100,000 in sales as the vote fell into Dowsing & Reynolds’ peak season.
Mrs Dowsing-Reynolds says the slowdown was just a “blip” and that sales have bounced back since. She said: “We saw that blip in December but we’ve seen sales go straight back up again, so we’ll be fine.
“We manage the business very carefully so we have plenty of cash in the bank to take into account anything like that.”
A stress-free culture for all staff
The biggest challenge for James and Ally Dowsing-Reynolds is managing the growth of the business.
The couple are content with what they have achieved and believe that any further success is just a bonus.
Mr Dowsing-Reynolds said: “It’s this culture that we’ve got that is fantastic. It’s not really work. Nobody does overtime, it’s a five o’clock finish.
“We don’t have that stressful culture but equally our team will react and be really good because they care so much.
“The biggest joy – and we get this a lot – is hearing team members say this is the best job they’ve ever had. You’re affecting lives in a positive way.”