60 years of trad­ing for fam­ily-run store

South Wales Evening Post - - NEWS - KATIE BEL­LIS @katiebel­lis • 01792 545539 katie.bel­lis@me­di­awales.co.uk

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

Pic­tures: Adrian White

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.

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