It takes a brave man to open a new retail business in the current climate.
But Richard Creary isn’t one to shirk a challenge. He shrugged off a cancer scare to launch Institute Menswear in Carlisle just before Christmas.
He has experience in running a retail business but latterly worked as an electrician at Sellafield.
Richard, 47, said: “I noticed there was a gap in the market. I was looking at the opportunity and thinking about it when I was diagnosed with cancer last August. They found a tumour and I had my right kidney removed.
“Whilst I was recovering, I looked at the business idea again.
“I did research, spoke to my bank, fiddled about with spreadsheets and drew up a business plan. Once I got the all-clear that the cancer hadn’t spread, and I’d agreed the finance with the bank, I decided to go ahead.
“I thought if I don’t go for it now, I’ll never do it. I didn’t want to end up on my death bed regretting that I hadn’t given it a go.
Carlisle is right for a business like this. We’ve got brands that are popular with a younger demographic.
“I’ve always got a trade to fall back on if it doesn’t work out.”
The shop in St Cuthbert’s Lane, opposite House of Fraser, opened just before Christmas. Richard is assisted by his daughter Alicia, 18.
But why launch now, given the headwinds facing the high street?
Only this week the retail entrepreneur and star of BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den, Theo Paphitis, said that the sector is sliding “closer towards the precipice”.
Richard is convinced, however, that niche retailers can thrive.
He said: “We’re a mid-range retailer. Carlisle has two top-end independent menswear retailers in Casanova and Room 26, but there’s no-one like us.
“We’ve done the research and that convinced the bank to back us.
“Carlisle is right for a business like this. There are 500,000 people in its catchment area and it’s a university town. We’ve got brands that are popular with a younger demographic.
“Pretty Green, Liam Gallagher’s brand, which is doing very well, and the likes of Sik Silk, Gym King, Luke 1977, Merc, Ed Hardy, NICCE, Fila and Religion.
“We would have liked to open sooner, but there were issues with the lease to iron out and then the wifi went down at the last minute.
“The first week was good, as was the week between Christmas and New Year when people spent their Christmas money.
“It’s quietened down in January, as we expected, but come February and March the new season’s fashions come out and people start spending.”
A website is under development and Richard plans to sell garments online through Amazon and through third-party apps.
He said: “You have to have an online presence these days. We will be offering purchases online but the website also enables potential customers to find out what brands we sell before they visit the shop.”
When setting up the business, he turned to the Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub. His Growth Hub adviser, Mo Colohan, enrolled him on our free Business Start-Up Support programme (BSUS).
He said: “I went on a three-day course for start-ups and we’re looking at putting Alicia on a digital marketing course.
“I found it very useful. I know my weaknesses – paper work and accounting – and it was good to go through these on the course and it opened my eyes to the benefits of cloud accounting.
“The one-to-one sessions with Mo were helpful too, looking in depth at marketing, planning and strategy.”
Mo was also able to help Richard secure a grant under our Subsidy Scheme towards the cost of developing a web site.
If you are thinking of starting your own business or social enterprise, then Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and our partners are here to help with a free business start-up programme to point you in the right direction.
Our comprehensive package of support includes:
- Free meetings with a business adviser to review and develop your business idea;
- Free training covering business planning and self employment, an introduction to marketing/market research and sales forecasts, promotion and sales, an introduction to planning and managing finance, taxation and bookkeeping, using the internet and social media;
- Free help to develop your business plan and get your business up and running;
- Free membership of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce.
The £1.1m BSUS project is supporting 300 new businesses and 750 individuals to start businesses, creating 300 jobs.
For more information, call us today on 0844 257 84 50 or click here to visit the Cumbria Business Growth Hub web site.
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP.
The BSUS project is receiving up to £1,112,686 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.