Outdoor retailer bucks high street gloom with new store plan for Edinburgh
Despite the gloomy high street outlook, Alpkit is planning to open a store in Edinburgh and has launched a recruitment drive ahead of the launch early next year.
The expansion move will be its first new store to open since the company raised just under £1.5 million in a crowdfunding drive which hit its original target in just eight minutes.
The Nottinghamshire-based company, founded by outdoor enthusiasts to offer high quality yet reasonable priced kit for walking, climbing and cycling, currently has four retail stores in England as well as an online operation.
Co-founder and managing director Nick Smith said Edinburgh has been on the company’s radar for some time but it has been waiting for the right property to come along.
It plans to open the new store on Causewayside near the Meadows early next year and is recruiting around 12 staff for the outlet which will feature an outdoor kit repair facility as well as sales and hire of its Sonder bike brand.
The retailer’s expansion move comes despite a torrid time for high street operators, including those in the outdoor sector where rival Go Outdoors fell into administration earlier this year before being bought by Tiso-owner JD Sports. Smith said Alpkit's highly-focused approach had enabled it to continue to grow despite the economic backdrop.
“The problem we see on the high street is that a lot of retail shops are very homogeneous and when you go into them there is very little engagement with the customer,” said Smith.
“We don’t have a set formula for new stores, each is very different based on the location and we look for staff who are super-engaged.”
Although the firm has a successful online operation, which saw like-for-like sales jump 20 per cent during the initial lockdown, Smith said Alpkit’s physical stores also boost online traffic.
“People go into a store, have a look at products but choose to buy online later, and as you can only buy Alpkit products from us that means having physical outlets drives more online sales.”
Founded in 2004, Alpkit now employs around 90 staff and figures for the year to October 2019 showed it achieved £7.1m sales and £500,000 in profits with over 100,000 customers served.
It has also established a charitable arm, Alpkit Foundation, which has given to over 650 projects to help get people outside. Its own factory helped to make NHS scrubs at the start of the pandemic.
Earlier this year the company announced plans to raise £750,000 on crowdfunding site Crowdcube. It hit the figure in just eight minutes – a record for the platform – and then doubled the target in a move which saw almost 1,400 investors take a combined stake of around 12.3 per cent in the business.
The funds raised are being used to open two new stores a year until it reaches its target of 12 and to improve its web presence.
In 2018 the company had secured £1.7m from the Foresight Nottingham Fund and a further £732,000 from HSBC.
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