Hoopers, Wilmslow department store celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Hoopers in Wilmslow is 30 this year. General manager Simon Carr says the feelgood factor that the store provides its customers with is a big part of the secret of its success WORDS BY CARL NAGAITIS PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Doom and gloom, the double dip recession and a challenging economic climate have failed to deter an army of loyal customers from supporting Hoopers, the flagship Wilmslow department store that this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.

And General Manager Simon Carr is more than aware that it’s the determined loyalty of his regular clientele that has enabled this business to report an increased spend year-on-year through the toughest trading conditions in generations.

‘Things could have been much worse if we hadn’t had the backing of these people,’ he said pointing to the throng of well-dressed customers enjoying lunch – in some cases accompanied by a glass of good wine - in the bustling second floor restaurant.

‘Retail has been tough since 2008 and will take time to recover,’ added Simon, who took up the reins of Hoopers six years ago after three decades of service in top-end department stores in the Midlands and at Kendals in Manchester. ‘Shoppers are demanding competitive prices and excellent service and that’s what we try to deliver here.

‘But I am aware that we are in a fortunate position. Wilmslow is a shopping destination and we are surrounded by a relatively affluent population. However, despite the fact that it may not be unusual to see Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis parked in the streets, not all our customers are rich and famous.

‘Although we have customers who can well afford some of the luxury items on our shelves like Mulberry handbags, we also stock more modest products, from greetings cards upwards, and at very competitive prices compared with the High Street.’

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Despite four challenging trading years Simon remains confident about the future of epartment stores.

‘We’re forever hearing gloomy predictions about the end of town centres and the demise of department stores. In fact someone described department stores as dinosaurs. But I disagree completely. And remember, dinosaurs went on for millions of years, didn’t they?’

Although he recognises the fast rate of growth in the online retail sector, Simon is convinced the days of traditional shopping, particularly the department store are far from numbered.

‘People still value the experience of coming into a shop where intelligent and articulate staff can answer their questions about any of our products. They still like to feel the goods before they buy. They love to know that if the garment they’ve just bought doesn’t fit when they get home, they can go back and exchange it.

‘Furthermore, the department store experience isn’t just about making purchases. It’s about a family day out, meeting friends, having a chat over coffee,’ added Cheadle Hulme born Simon, who is also Vice Chairman of the Wilmslow Business Group.

‘Having said that, we’ve just launched our transactional site as part of our website which means customers have the choice of making a purchase in-store or from the comfort of their own home.’

Simon said the Wilmslow business community was tired of hearing nothing but economic negativity and indeed some had recently been reporting promising first shoots of recovery. ‘After what we’ve all be through, I think we agree that it’s time for a little guarded optimism,’ he added.

For further information click onto www.hoopers.ltd.uk

The print version of this article appeared in the July 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 

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