Belfast Telegraph

Wooden floor firm opening first English store as boss sets sights on expansion

By Rachel Martin

Northern Ireland retailer Wood Floor Warehouse (WFW) has opened the doors of its first English shop in Warrington. The Bangor-based firm invested just under £1m of its own funds into setting up its biggest store yet.

Managing director Julie Crozier told Business Telegraph she hoped it would be first step in expansion across the UK.

WFW currently employs 14 people in two stores - on Belfast's Ravenhill Road and in Bangor - in Northern Ireland.

The Warrington project started off back in April, with teams of designers, builders and joiners renovating a disused building bought up the company.

Mrs Crozier said: "We wanted to expand and set up more shops but needed to keep our overheads down. We worked on building a website and establishing our online presence, and we realised there was a lot of demand for our products in England and Wales.

"During the recession, we were spending money when everyone thought that the obvious thing to do was the opposite.

"We invested in re-kitting our two Northern Ireland stores and then, when the economy started to recover, we already had a customer base in England for the new store.

"In that particular town, the economy was doing quite well, and there were no other companies offering the same as us.

WFW was founded by Roy Burns in 2001, starting with the warehouse-style shop in Bangor. By buying products in bulk, directly from manufacturers, the company was able to keep its bottom line down and gain a market advantage on its competitors.

Today, the company is led by Roy's son, Darren Burns, and daughter, Julie Crozier, who focused the stores towards a wider demographic.

Renegotiating deals with suppliers, making more effective use of currency and bringing in new types of products helped the company to get through the recession.

The expansion has meant that the business has taken on five new members of staff in England and two in Northern Ireland.

But Mrs Crozier said the new store had reaped many other benefits for the firm.

"It has given our customers much more confidence in our website," she said.

"They know they can look at our products in a shop or they can collect their goods in person, but we will still continue to run as much of the business as possible from Northern Ireland.

"We want to see how this new store goes first, but we would like to expand further and move out towards London and the north of England, but we would want to be very strong financially before we open another one."

In next week's Retail Focus, we hear from menswear firm SD Kells

Belfast Telegraph