60 years of trading for family-run store
THE high street retail industry is facing an uncertain future.
Some of the biggest names have been closing their doors as online shopping takes over, and city centres across the UK have a high tally of vacant units as businesses struggle to keep going.
In September this year, we counted 29 empty units around Swansea city centre and The Kingsway.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, especially for one long-running independent business which seems to be doing just fine.
Department store Ideal Choice, in Singleton Street, Swansea, is a family-run business which has been open for 60 years.
Many will know it by its previous name, Leonard Charles, which moved to a bigger premises on Oxford Street after the business took off.
However, the family are now back in their original location in Singleton Street.
The store was originally run by Margaret and Leonard Powe, who have now passed away.
However, daughter Julie Hurlow now owns the shop and works alongside her daughter Sian.
If you take a walk inside the store, you won’t find any staff members who have worked at the business for less than 20 years.
Owner Julie said her loyal customers were the secret to the department store’s sucesss.
“I don’t think my parents thought that the business would last this long. But the business has kept going because we have regular and loyal customers,” she said.
She said she worried every day about the retail industry.
“We try to be competitive with our prices, we don’t buy cheap stuff and we don’t buy things that are too expensive either.
“You’ve got to keep up with the trends, when things change you have got to change with it. Years ago you used to have to have a card to get into the store but we moved with the times to stay open.
“We’ll go to trade shows and see what’s in fashion, we’ll also order in things for people if they want washing machines or carpets.
“And we also have a system where customers can have an account where they don’t have to pay straight away, it’s sort of like a club, but people walk in from the streets as well.”
Sian has been working at the store since she left school, and said the business was her grandparents’ life.
“My grandparents started the business in 1958, unfortunately my grandpa passed away in 2012 but up until then he was working every day, delivering beds in his van at the age of 82-83. Business was their life, it’s what they lived for,” she said.
The 35-year-old, who lives in Blackpill, said staff at the store were like a family.
She added: “We’ve been back at this premises for five years, it’s nice to say that after 60 years of them first opening we are still here in Swansea city centre, and not a lot of people can say that. To still be going is amazing, it makes all their hard work worthwhile to carry the name on.
“My mum has always worked here and so have I since leaving school. It’s nice to be able to work with your family, the staff are also like family.”
“It’s stressful and you have a lot of sleepless nights, you are relying on customers coming in every day.”
Sian hopes to take over the business herself once her mum retires.
“We want to keep this business going as long as we can. The plan is for me to take over once my mum retires.
“My nephew came in last week while it was halfterm. He worked all day on Monday, and that was me when I was young. It made me think that maybe in years to come the business could be his.
“It’s more of a personal touch when you come here, we know everyone by name. Even though it’s a family business our customers are like family as well,” she said.
Christie Vaughan has been working in the shop for 40 years.
She said: “I have always loved my job, the office is smaller now and customers have changed over the years. All of the staff who work here have worked here for a long time, noone who works here have been here for under 20 years.
“I’ll keep working here until I’m not capable of doing so, we are all like a big family and regularly go out together.”
The store will celebrate 60 years of trading on November 27.
I don’t think my parents thought that the business would last this long. But the business has kept going because we have regular and loyal customers - Owner Julie Hurlow We’ll go to trade shows and see what’s in fashion, we’ll also order in things for people if they want washing machines or carpets
Shop owner Julie Hurlow and, right, daughter Sian Hurlow working at Ideal Choice, on Singleton Street, Swansea.
Julie Hurlow aged 10 at the store’s opening with her parents Margaret and Leonard Powe in 1963.