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Customer takes over Upstairs Downstairs

North Yorkshire womenswear indie Upstairs Downstairs has relaunched after being bought by a former customer who is hoping to expand the business.

The store in Ripon had been run by founder Sue Loach for the past 32 years, selling brands including Marc O’Polo, Penny Black, Fenn Wright Manson, Sandwich and Wolford, from the ground floor of the 350sq ft unit on Westgate.

But Loach sold the business to long-term customer Carole Grainger, who has installed an IT system and plans to expand into the building’s first floor. Loach will continue to work at the store as a part-time buyer.

Grainger, a customer for 12 years, said she would only make small changes to the business, which is already a successful retailer. “I’ve been shopping here for 12 years. I didn’t want to see it close and I had the opportunity to buy. We’ve put in an IT system which will allow us to barcode everything. “Eventually we will open up some of the first floor space, which will expand it to 350sq ft, and we’ll be able to have a few more brands,” Grainger said.

The store reopened last weekend after a refurbishment programme for the three-floor building, which included putting in new oak flooring and adding some more office space.

Loach said: “It’s great that at a time when businesses are closing there’s an example of a successful business being bought.”

Loach opened Upstairs Downstairs in 1977 selling brands including Lee Cooper, Uninhibited and French Connection, before also moving into bridalwear.

“In 2000, everything was getting more casual and younger so we went that way too,” she said. “We’ve seen shops come and go, but this is a very good business. The key is commitment and enjoying what you do. “You have to be careful what you buy and excite the customer. Because we occupy the middle to better end, we don’t follow the high street. Cherry pick the ranges and invest in your business. Market yourself and the strong will survive.”

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