Ringing in the changes with Bell
All Things Business spoke to Graham Jackson, Managing Director of Bell, about its expansion plans and what they mean to the business.
This year is a special year for Bell, could you tell us a bit more about that?
This year marks 120 years since Bell opened its doors in Northampton. It is also the year that we start trading on Sundays for the first time and expand the store on a massive scale, so we are very much seeing 2018 as a year of celebrating our heritage but also going through a bit of a re-birth and starting a new chapter. We are marking this by completely re-branding and launching a new website too – so watch this space!
What are these expansion plans?
We are building a £250,000 extension which will give the store a total space of more than 20,000 sq ft and see the creation of a 110-seat day restaurant, expansion of the Rose Gallery currently situated in store, introduction of a large Christmas and gifting shop and 90 spaces added to the car park. A major outdoor and barbeque space, three times the size of the current outdoor department, will also be created and will hopefully include a deli selling fresh meats and dairy produce. We also plan to introduce concessions. These are yet to be finalised but could include intelligent homes – think heating and music systems you can control from your phone - and another selling internal and external windows and doors.
We are all very excited by this and can now create a real destination store with something for the whole family. The store will combine our amazing award-winning fires, kitchens and bathrooms with a host of new brands and products that are often unique, quirky and fun but always high quality and aspirational. We feel we can create something special and are on our way to doing just this.
What do you think it is that makes Bell different to other retailers?
Bell is unique. It has 120 years of history but a thoroughly modern outlook as a retailer. We have created a home lifestyle business that caters for any aspect of a home project, whether you have a new home or are renovating, Bell can offer everything you need in one place. We can undertake everything from building and construction work to finishing touches such as curtains and blinds. We have talented design and installation teams who are extremely customer focused, creative, and able to interpret your ideas and thoughts into pragmatic but inspirational reality.
How many people work at Bell across the Northampton and Thame sites?
Bell employs 70 people across the two sites and its outside distribution centre.
What do you think is the biggest misconception of Bell?
Our customer research has highlighted that many customers are still not aware of the fabulous store we have become, thinking of us as ‘just a fires and stoves’ shop. This is changing though as more people recognise our newer offers such as lighting, interior design, art, living room furniture, Cookshop and café. This will change further in September with the opening of our large restaurant, Christmas and gifting shop, skincare and wellbeing and home accessories areas.
Where would you like to see Bell in another five years from now?
Bell has a very clear vision - to be the best multi-channel home lifestyle store in the UK. We aim to achieve this and be seen as the place to go shopping in Northamptonshire. In five years, I hope we will have cemented our position as the destination shopping location in the area that is seen as a cool place to shop, visit and work. Our ecommerce business will also have grown into a wider home offer, reflecting the home lifestyle store we have become. Bell has so many possibilities…
Last month Bell Northampton, the home and lifestyle store based at Kingsthorpe in the town, announced massive expansion plans which will see the store extended by 7,000 sq ft.