Owner of new store catering for modified car fans gears up for better 2021
PUBLISHED: 17:05 28 October 2020 | UPDATED: 17:05 28 October 2020
There is life left in the high street, insists an automotive retailer who has launched a store in East Anglia.
Chris Smith signed a lease on his second automotive lifestyle store just a week before the pandemic lockdown hit in the UK.
“Not a great start but we are English so we are stubborn,” said Chris.
Lowest – based in Lowestoft’s London Road North – is aimed at people with a passion for cars and “everything to do with the auto world”, he said. He and his 15-strong team worked on promoting the location at a point when the high street was “dead” due to the coronavirus crisis, he added.
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Mr Smith started his first shop in Cornwall in 2011 but later moved to Battlesbridge on the outskirts of Basildon to set up The Cave before deciding to up sticks and move to Lowestoft this year.
“The first couple of weeks were OK – we thought we have got a couple of weeks to build the shop,” he said. “It didn’t work that way – the builders’ merchants were shut down.”
Despite the problems, he invested tens of thousands of pounds in the project, he said, and opened up when coronavirus rules were relaxed in early summer.
The business stocks thousands of products from spark plugs and clothing to performance parts and items for customising cars, and to launch the new store the team focused on mass marketing through social media.
“We pushed through to keep things moving,” he said.”We decided to close down our Essex store so we could continue to fund the Lowestoft store. We came up with an idea to drag new faces into the area and promote the location.
“It worked – we had people from all over the UK drive to us for a photo – Wales, Nottingham, London, Cornwall, etc. Moving forward this become a thing and everyone wanted to attend.”
The business has faced a tough start and they have been working other jobs to keep things going, he said, but were continuing to move it forward.
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The team attended a Modified Live event at Snetterton in October which featured modified car action and was delighted to come away with a trophy for best trade stand at the show, said Mr Smith.
However, modified car customers arriving on Sunday (October 25) were turned away, he said. “We had lots of customers turn up because we won the trophy. Then we had the police turn up and dispersed everyone,” he said.
The business was adhering to coronavirus rules, he insisted, but didn’t want to be “prim and proper”.
“We are doing what we are supposed to do but instead of being subtle and formal about it we have been a bit cheeky,” he said.
Mr Smith said he was hoping to expand to another location where the business can host its customers better to continue sales, he said. The business was “more than a store” and reflected a lifestyle, he added.
“We are also putting a lot of time effort and money into the extreme sports and skate world to widen our target market and use our powers to support up-and-coming athletes,” he said.
“We don’t predict a good end of the year with all the rules but if we put the effort in to support our followers we hope it will get us ready for the new year. Lowestoft has given us a hard time but we are stubborn and we will survive if the rest of the high street dies.”
A Suffolk Constabulary spokeswoman said: “Police were made aware of a group of people gathering outside of the business on Sunday, October 25.
“If groups of people appear not to be adhering to social distancing measures and the rule of six, officers will attend and groups will be dispersed and could be issued with fixed penalty notices.
“Our focus as a force will remain one of engagement, explanation and encouragement, but we will use enforcement when required.
“We must all continue to play our part in keeping the county as safe as possible.”
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