For a few weeks now, reports have been filtering around concerning some interesting – indeed, ‘special’ – goings on in a place called Lakeland. Now, not all of us are as up to speed as my good self, so I thought I’d shed some light on behalf of the uninformed. Whether or not this is a true ‘revival’ is, of course, open to conjecture, but there is no doubt that increasing numbers of devout followers are being affected by what is going on, and therefore it is worth giving up some of my Sunday night to comment on.
Lakeland is a small shop in central Exeter, and for many years now it has been providing its customers with high quality kitchenware and associated products. The manager and senior staff had always considered their store ‘a good place to come’, commanding a small but committed community of regulars. That was until earlier this year.
“It was around about the Whitsun bank holiday,” remembers Mrs T Bentley, assistant manager, “and I had just transferred from the Newton Abbot branch. I don’t think I did anything much different that day, just arranged the new ‘altar’ range of bowls in the window, put up some horse’s bells and opened up for the day. But the hunger of the people for high quality, well-designed kitchenware at reasonable prices was such that we’ve had to open the store up for special ‘overflow’ sessions on weekday evenings. I’d heard of things like this happening before – they felt like long-distant stories, but now we’re in the middle of one of them!”
Mrs Bentley’s eyes fill with tears as she speaks – tears of joy. And she is not the only one who is happy. Todd Florida, Lakeland’s regional sales director, is pleased as well.
“Initially – and to everyone’s surprise – this great influx of people did not really translate itself into increased sales,” he says, looking at a wall chart. “But we believe that this shortfall may have been due to the numbers of people falling to the ground as they strove to approach the checkout – the experience seems to have been too much for some of them to handle. But as the days and weeks have passed with ever-increasing levels of zeal and fervency, large numbers have come to visit the store, many travelling impressive distances. We have seen in them a great desire not only to engage with the unique Lakeland shopping experience, but to take some of our unique designs back home with them to share with their local communities. In this way, people in many different locations in the West Country and around the world have been touched by what is going on here.”
In recent times, many have despaired of the retail sector, declaring it out of date and irrelevant to normal people’s lives, but this sales revival shows no sign of slowing – indeed, it is spreading. Already, new stores carrying the Lakeland brand have been planted in other towns and cities and are reporting similar scenes as have been witnessed in Exeter. The group’s website is also generating astronomical numbers of hits. But not everyone is happy.
“I have been a regular here for years,” said Mary Rowe, a local politician. “Week in, week out. I was here before this ‘revival’, and I’ll still be coming when it’s all finished and forgotten. I just wish people would stop trying to interview me and let me get on with my shopping.”