Family run clothing store set for major �2m facelift

A FLAGSHIP store is set for the first phase of a major, multi-million pound facelift in the New Year.

Family-run clothing outlet Coes has decided to press ahead with an ambitious redevelopment of its Ipswich outlet, in spite of the tough economic conditions.

The decision, taken a year after the plans were temporarily shelved following the fallout from the worldwide credit crunch, will be a boost to the local economy and underlines the business’s faith in the town’s future.

During the first half of 2011, work will be carried out to enable a third floor - likely to follow in two or three years’ time - to be added to the building front in Norwich Road in line with other parts of the building.

The first phase, costing around �700,000 in total, is aimed at giving the store greater street appeal, and an internal refurbishment making maximum use of the space available. Many of its existing departments will be refurbished and upgraded during the redevelopment, which starts in January and should be completed around June of next year.

Phase two, costing �1million-plus, will significantly expand the floor space, creating 40,000sq ft of space over three floors.

The work, which already has planning permission, is being split to minimise the inevitable disruption caused.

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Willliam Coe, the third generation of the family to run the store, believes the changes, which follow major works back in 2002, will create a striking landmark building for the town

The first phase is aimed at bringing at creating a bigger street presence and bringing it more in line with the store’s other 2002 frontage, he said.

“What a lot of people say is: ‘I didn’t realise you were so big’,” said Mr Coe. “We are a bit like a tardis at the moment.”

He believes that now was a good time to invest in the future.

“I won’t lose any sleep over it at all. I think it’s going to be a long, hard slog, but at some point you have got to invest in the future. This is for the next 10 or 20 years,” he said.

“We were planning on doing it a year ago and we put it off but I now think the time is right to carry on. We are in a better position than we were a year ago.”

The timing of phase two has still to be decided.

“We can’t do it all in one go, therefore we are doing it in phases,” he said.

“It depends on how the first phase goes. If everything is flying, we could do it as soon as 12 months later, but realistically it will be two or three years. If trade went up 20%, I would say let’s crack on with it.”

The addition of a womenswear department to Coes in 2002 has transformed the business, which specialises in a number of areas, including a comprehensive sports shop that specialises in everything from running and racket sports to hockey and snowsports, a large footwear department, a childrens’s fashion shop, formal men’s attire, a big men’s department and evening and wedding wear.

“It will improve our offer. It will make the shop more attractive, the internal refurbishment will make it easier to shop,” he said.

“You have got to continue to invest in your business. We have held back because of the climate, but we now feel the time is right to move forward with our business.”

He added: “I want our shop to be a landmark building within the town and I think this design will allow that to happen easily. I want people to drive along here, look at our building and say: ‘Wow.’”

Mr Coe, who is chairman of Ipswich Central, said he felt positive about the future, although he recognised things were not going to be easy for the economy in the next 12 to 18 months, and said Ipswich had a promising future, with more and better retailers coming to the town.

“Every single statistic you look at I think the East Anglian economy is well positioned for growth,” he said. “I want to make sure we are ready to take off when the growth comes.”

Staff were “excited” that the work was going ahead, he said.

Coes was founded in 1928 and William Coe is the third generation of the family to run the business. It has shops across East Anglia, employing more than 180 staff. It has extended its business into Online shopping and ships goods to all parts of the world, from Japan and Norway to America and France.

The new-look building has been designed by local architects Poole & Pattle and construction work will be carried out by D C Construction based in Ipswich, assisted by structural engineers Stroud Associates.

Coes director Peter Hubka said the move illustrates the firm’s commitment growing the business for years to come.

“It is great working in a family firm that is so committed to the business. With so many independents disappearing, we have found more and more people actually value what we do and the service levels we maintain,” he said.

“Needless to say, we are excited and are undertaking the project as we are confident that Ipswich is a destination town and has long-term prospects to evolve into an even stronger retail hub.”