Grantham Journal Big Interview: Downtown turns 25 with a party

Comic and television star Faith Brown opened Downtown back in 1989.
Comic and television star Faith Brown opened Downtown back in 1989.
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Downtown opened its doors on September 29, 1989. Twenty-five years later, it is still going strong and has undergone a transformation.

The Journal spoke to store manager Lisa Bracey along with distribution manager Sean Wragg and service assistant Carol Curry, who have both worked there since the start, to find out the secret behind its continued success.

Downtown today with staff member of 25 years Carol Curry and store manager Lisa Bracey.

Downtown today with staff member of 25 years Carol Curry and store manager Lisa Bracey.

What is the store doing to celebrate 25 years?

Lisa: We are having a birthday party on November 1 and 2, and have various activities going on including renowned chef Nigel Brown serving up food in our kitchen department on the Saturday (November 1). There will also be children’s entertainment and a birthday cake. Staff are dressing up in 80s costumes, and we will be playing 80s music and the old advert with the slogan ‘you get it all at Downtown’. And there will be various offers including 25% off, giveaways and competitions.

What has kept Downtown going over the 25 years?

Lisa: We give exceptional service and have retained a local feel. It’s always been a family firm and we’ve kept it close to those roots. We see ourselves as local and want to look after our local customers.

Downtown opening reported in the Journal in 1989.

Downtown opening reported in the Journal in 1989.

How has it changed in that time?

Sean: There has been a large increase in customers and the whole shop has expanded. Orginially the distribution centre was incorporated within the main building, and then about 15 years ago the warehouse was built and the shop converted. And when we opened we only sold furniture and furnishings.

Lisa: We’ve kept up with the times including having a website and delivering further afield. We’ve looked to the local and national markets to see what we should be doing, but without losing our core values of customer service and offering a good level of service.

How many people does Downtown employ and what training do you offer staff?

Lisa: In the store and in distribution we employ 250 people, and then 90 in the garden centre. As a business we do a lot of team development. We have talent pools where we identify people in the stores that might be ready for progression, so we are very active in enabling staff to progress through the business. As well as Sean and Carol, employees Julie Marratt, Wendy Rumbold, Andy North, Maggie Sadler, Patsy Temporal and Bridget Danylew have been with us throughout the 25 years.

What can customers expect at Downtown?

Lisa: Choice and value for money. We stock furniture, fitted kitchens, large domestic appliances, TVs, audio, men’s, women’s and children’s fashion, cosmetics, homeware, food and drink, and also have a very nice cafe. And we’re always looking to attract new concessions to the store, with Dorothy Perkins and Stila cosmetics the most recent additions. We’re trying all the time to have more brands so we can offer more choice. We work with a strategy of being able to offer entry, mid and top end prices.

Carol: It is easier for customers having everything all under one roof, and free parking.

What are the plans for the next 25 years?

Lisa: To keep evolving to give customers what they want, by listening and reacting to them.