Retailer Barkers ready for new era after £3m store expansion

A family-owned furnishing store is hoping to turn itself into a destination retail outlet following a £3m expansion.

Ian Barker, stored director, at the near-completion of a £3m redevelopment of Barkers Furnishing Store in Northallerton, creating up to 15 new jobs.

Northallerton-based Barkers Furnishing Store will officially open the doors on the newly expanded development on March 19. The revamp will also see a change of name to Barkers Home.

Ian Barker, a director at the family-run firm, told The Yorkshire Post: “Previously we were just mainly a furniture store, whereas now we are rebranding it as a home store and we hope to make it more of a destination centre.”

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The store has been expanded by 20,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet to create a section for contemporary furniture, bigger linens department, new cookshop and gifts section.

taking shape: Director Ian Barker looks on as the extended store moves close to completion, both inside and outside. The store has been expanded to 60,000 sq ft to create a host of new sections.

There has also been a revamp of the first-floor bedroom furniture and soft furnishings section.

Currently, Barkers employs 45 people and the expansion will see an additional 15 jobs created at the store on Yafforth Road.

Initially Barkers, which has been going since 1882, planned the ambitious expansion before the recession but the financial crash put the plans on hold.

Mr Barker, whose great-great grandfather William Barker established the business, said: “We had planning permission beforehand, we were all ready to press the button and the financial crash happened.

taking shape: Director Ian Barker looks on as the extended store moves close to completion, both inside and outside. The store has been expanded to 60,000 sq ft to create a host of new sections.

“It hit everybody but certainly the homewares market was impacted.

“Houses stopped selling and new builds stopped. We just didn’t think it was the right time then to go ahead with the expansion so we put it on hold until the climate improved.”

The recent upturn in the economy and increasing consumer confidence led to Barkers finally going ahead with the expansion in May last year.

Mr Barker says the company was helped through the recession by the quality of products and the strong pricing point it offered.

Barkers is now looking at offering more contemporary ranges to sit alongside traditional homewares.

“We’re finding that people are looking for more modern contemporary type furniture, as well as the traditional furniture that we sell as well,” said Mr Barker.

This was a trend that the firms buyers have noticed at various shows and something that business was looking to add more of.

Barkers has a long history with Northallerton and the firm said that its latest development showed a commitment to the North Yorkshire town.

“We hope this will draw in shoppers from outside the area and encourage them to spend time and money in Northallerton,” said Mr Barker.

One advantage of being a family-owned business is that it allows Barkers to be more fleet-footed when it comes to reacting to changes in the marketplace.

Mr Barker said: “If you’re a part of a big group sometimes there’s a lot more hoops to jump through. As a family business if we see something that we need to react to in the marketplace we can do that fairly quickly.”

Customers also like the idea of shopping at a family-owned store, Mr Barker added, but he said that this needed to be complemented with good service, quality and price; customer service being a key part of Barkers.

The expansion marks the biggest investment by the Barker family, who also own Barkers department store on Northallerton High Street.

Building is being carried out by Darlington-based Wharton Construction, another family business, which has worked for Barkers for the past 10 years.

Mr Barker said although for the first few months of the redevelopment there was little disruption, lately the firm has had to work around the building.

No place like Home

To add to Barkers Home’s appeal as a destination store the firm is also aiming to top off the redevelopment with a newly extended cafe.

The expansion of the cafe is expected to be completed in spring.

Ian Barker said: “We’re trying to make it, rather than just a furniture store, more of a destination home store.”

The expansion will see the store extended from 40,000 sq ft to 60,000 sq ft.