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Jenny & Damián From Stringers Feature In Lancashire Life

Lytham’s well-respected department store, Stringers, is showcased in this month’s Lancashire Life magazine. And facing the spotlight in this prestigious monthly magazine are Jenny and Damian Clarke, the hard-working and dedicated owners of Stringers department store.

The author of the feature, Roger Borrell, points out that whilst Jenny and Damian may not have the buying power of the big chains, they have the big advantage of local knowledge as they live in Lytham and consequently have a close understanding of what their customers want.

The enthusiastic and focussed couple have recently spent a substantial amount re-developing the top floor of the store into a state-of-the-art office complex for their backroom team.

Speaking to Lancashire Life, Damian, who took over the business from his father, said: ‘Previously, all the investment was on the shop floor. Behind the scenes, we were 20 years behind the times.’ Jenny added: ‘This new space means we communicate better and react more quickly. That allows us to find better solutions.’ They own the building, a prominent landmark in the town centre, and said Damian: ‘These are investments for the future. We are not here for the short term. These are long term investments to ensure our business is strong, safe and secure.’

The article shares how Jenny, a former marketing specialist from a food business with international clients, plays a major role in keeping the store focused on customer needs and Damian credits her with bringing greater confidence to the retailer.

There was a time when the buyers were based in different sections of the shop floor,’ said Jenny. ‘The danger was that the business was being taken in several different directions in terms of what it was selling. The buyers are now an office-based team and they have a joint focus so the customer gets a consistent, positive experience. But it’s important they continue to have strong links to the sales teams.’

Fifty-four-year-old Damian said, ‘Clarity of vision is important. We spend a lot of time trying to think about what our customers think about.’ Jenny explained further, ‘There was a time when assumptions were made about the age profile of customers in Lytham and that resulted in salespeople turning up with suitcases full of flowery tea towels.’

‘Today, Lytham is much more a town of younger families and they want a contemporary, inspiring place to shop and that’s right down to having hard wood floors rather than carpets,’ said Damian. ‘We want to promote an emotional, fun experience – something that is a break from the gloom that might be surrounding us.’

‘We don’t have a vision of the typical customer – we are a family store where a 16-year-old might find a pair of earrings, a young mum might find a hoodie from Superdry, a 40-something might buy Mint Velvet and an older lady might go for Phase Eight,’ said Jenny. ‘But we must avoid making assumptions – the idea that people say because they’ve suddenly reached a certain age they can only look at classic brands is no longer correct. People have changed.’

‘People are still surprised to discover we are independent,’ said Damian. ‘But the fact we are means we can ensure the culture of the business is finely tuned to the area we serve and we have employees who share our vision. Customers have responded and there is a strong sense of support from the community.

The Clarkes are hands-on bosses with Jenny spending more time with the backroom team while Damian is on the shop floor. ‘But we are not dictatorial,’ said Jenny. ‘We trust our team to set the right culture and develop high standards. We are not all over people like a rash. Trusting the team means you get the best from them.’

They have three children aged between 24 and nine. ‘You try to have family time but this is a business that permeates everything,’ said Jenny. ‘The children accept it and they share in our excitement when positive things happen.’

Stringers originally started out as a drapery store back in 1852 and changed hands several times before Damian’s grandfather took it over 100 years later. Today, Stringers operate over two sites in Lytham with a homeware store in nearby Booths and they employ well over 100 colleagues.

The full article with exclusive photographs can be found in Lancashire Life.

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