I am optimistic for the future of Downtown
Column by Richard Broadhead, managing director of Oldrids & Downtown
Since being founded in 1804, the Oldrids & Downtown group has grown and adapted to ever-changing economic situations.
One such period of great flux was the 1980s - Yuppies, strong economic growth, revenues from North Sea Oil and Motorola launching the first ever handheld mobile phone (unfortunately the phone in question weighed over a kilo and took more than 10 hours to charge, to gain 30 minutes of battery life!) led to increased consumerism and a boom in home ownership. This very helpful trend allowed Oldrids to expand dramatically in the home furnishings market.
This success also demonstrated that the future lay in the development of larger format stores. In 1987 work commenced on the creation of Downtown, located on a 10-acre site on the A1 at Grantham. And, in September 1989, the new Downtown Grantham store opened to great acclaim.
The hugely impressive displays of furniture and home products created a visitor hub at a very accessible location, but unfortunately the timing for the opening wasn’t great as by 1990 the country was suffering from a widespread recession. Over the next few years the group had to adapt to survive, by introducing a new fashion floor and then the hugely popular garden centre.
Nowadays we still see the retail sector going through a prolonged period of change and upheaval. Factors such as changing consumer behaviour, increased internet shopping and challenging economic conditions are changing the way retailers need to operate and engage with their customers and it’s important that they succeed, as a buoyant retail environment creates a halo of economic success for the local economy.
I am optimistic for future for Downtown, and especially my plans for the next few years that include the development of the Downtown Grantham Designer Outlet, which, along with new Government funding initiatives, are vital elements within the continued re-generation of Grantham.
With over nine per cent of the national workforce being employed within the retail sector, the power and influence of retailing affects us all – which is why we are determined that Downtown continues to be a hugely relevant business for Grantham and why regenerating our Downtown site is crucial.
Whilst we operate a very successful online business, at our heart we’re all about providing a real-life, physical retail service for the shoppers of Lincolnshire. It’s also important to make sure that our service provides a differentiated experience – whether that’s helping someone to choose the most comfortable mattress, a pair of shoes or serving the perfect scone. That’s what retailing is all about and that’s why the next few years, and beyond, are crucial.
We are proud to have been trading in Grantham for so long, and we are celebrating our 30th birthday in style. We are committed to operating a successful retail business, here for everyone in Grantham and for visitors across the UK.