W.E. Clarke, for over 100 years
A family run department store is a rarity these days, let alone one that has been part of a Derbyshire town’s life for over a century, is still run by the grandson of its founder, and continues to thrive and adapt to the challenges of modern retail.
Today, two branches of Clarkes stores are run by David Clarke, with help from his wife Jodi. “My grandfather originally started the business in 1912 as a tailor,” says David. “In those days quality and service were given, and they are still key to what we offer here today.”
Times have changed in some ways, and while the shop no longer carries a large credit round extending to Mansfield (which David’s father, Bert, covered on bicycle in his younger days), the variety of goods for sale has never been wider.
Over the past ten years, the original Ripley store has moved from a purely fashion base to include cookware, linens and towels, a coffee shop, children’s shoes, giftware and lingerie, as well as expanding other lines such as bags and luggage.
The shop now occupies 10,000 square feet and is spread over two floors, employing 36 members of staff. ” We aim to have something for the whole family, from goose-down duvets to fashion accessories,” adds David.
For the weary shopper, the new in-store ‘Coffee House’ has proven a popular destination in itself, with many customers travelling a considerable distance for ‘real’ coffee and homemade cakes.
The business has strong ties with the community, raising funds for Ripley Hospital throughout the year as well as being involved with local schools and training schemes.
With a loyal customer base and now two positions in the heart of the Amber Valley, David is still mindful of the need to plan for the future and respond to trends. “We take particular pleasure in customers who can remember our grandparents at the shop, but we are always looking for new brands and opportunities.”
Clarkes proves there is a place for independent family run businesses alongside superstores and malls and that personal service and innovation can go hand in hand.