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'I have a new respect for retailers': one year of Sandersons department store

Drapers catches up with Deborah Holmes, managing director of 17,000 sq ft independent department store Sandersons in Sheffield, on the first anniversary of its opening. 

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Deborah Holmes

How has the first year gone?

It’s gone amazingly well. I was just speaking with our accountant and we have made £20,000 more than we forecasted, which I’m really happy with. It’s been the hardest year ever – I have a newfound respect for retailers [Holmes is a former journalist]. But it’s been such good fun.

Why was it so hard?

When you work on a shop floor it’s very physical – you’re on your feet all day making sure the shop is looking good. It’s tough getting round all the retailers, and making sure we buy the best product for our area. We’re really looking for those special items and there’s a lot of rubbish out there. We’ve been curating what we think will sell in our area, and persuading brands they should be in with us.

What was the response when you opened last summer?

It was fabulous, and we have so many repeat customers. Regulars come in every week and have a cup of tea in the tearooms and then browse. We’re only 12 miles from [British Land-owned shopping centre] Meadowhall, so I didn’t think people would come from more than a 10-minute drive away, but they are. They like the fact that we’re independent, and the store is quite uncluttered and clean. There are lots of places to sit down, information about products and the staff are well trained. It’s geared to ladies over 35.

Sanderson exterior


Sandersons is part of the Fox Valley development

What has changed since you opened?

We’ve doubled the space given to menswear, from 500 sq ft to 960 sq ft. Menswear has worked really well for us – brands like Barbour, Ted Baker and Remus Uomo. We added Tommy Hilfiger a couple of weeks ago. To create the extra space we moved ladies’ accessories over to sit beside shoes, so we haven’t lost any sales. In womenswear, we’ve added Polo Ralph Lauren and a Hobbs concession.

What do you plan to do next?

Our beauty makeovers have proved really popular. At the moment they’re done at a counter, but we’re planning a special work station. That will open in October.

Which is your bestselling brand?

Barbour, in both men’s and ladies’ wear. We’ve learned that people really love a brand. However, we try to offer uniqueness alongside the brands that people trust, with a nod to the local area. For example, we stock Yorkshire Clobber T-shirts with Yorkshire slogans on them at £20 a pop, which do really well.

Tell us about the pop-up gallery

The World of McKee is a new pop-up shop and gallery, which showcases the work of Sheffield artist Pete McKee. It started as a pop-up last week, but it’s doing well so we might make it permanent. 

When does the online store launch?

It will launch before the end of September. The store is so lovely, such an experience – we’re trying to get that across in the online experience. The website looks lovely, as does the packaging.

What percentage of sales do you expect to be made online?

Absolutely no idea. What I can tell you is we already send a lot out by post. People come to this area on holiday and ring up later to order something they can’t buy locally. 

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