How did you get started in sports retail?
My parents, Malcolm and Joan Craghill, took over Temple Sports on Station Street in Keswick in 1976. I studied business at Workington College, but had always enjoyed working in the shop, so joined Temple Sports in 1986 and later became a partner alongside my parents, who are still very much involved.
Temple Sports moved to larger premises in 2001, then we opened Craghill’s Bootstore in 2006, which specialises in outdoor walking boots and footwear, and Explore, which is aimed at the family walker, in 2013. The businesses complement each other in that they are all quite distinctive, so attract different customers, but have some crossover lines. My father is retiring this year after 40 years in the business, when we’ll consolidate our businesses to focus on Explore and Temple Sports.
How is trade?
As Keswick is a tourist town, trade is very seasonal. We have to carry heavier stock from Easter through to the end of October, then things ease off for the winter. In Temple Sports, Sketchers GOwalk and memory foam styles of footwear have been very good this season. Crocs and Nike footwear have also done well. Animal men’s and ladies clothing is very popular, as is Nike fitness clothing. We are also Keswick school uniform stockists, which is a big commitment in terms of stock, and school equipment suppliers throughout Cumbria.
Who are your competitors?
In the sports market there are the usual competitors, such as the big chains and the internet. In terms of the outdoor business, there are 24 other outdoor shops in Keswick, so we try to compete by being competitive on price and offering outstanding customer service that we feel only a family run business can offer. Being a small, independent group of stores can also be an advantage, as we can quickly react to trading conditions and move stock between our stores in order to create a better mix.
How do you find out about new products?
We are still fortunate enough to go to Nike and adidas showrooms and we have been a member of STAG for many years. But increasingly, Nike and adidas make us feel like we are a nuisance and don’t give us any support at all. We recently had a letter from Nike to say that they are no longer holding showrooms, so we won’t be able to see and feel the product before we order it. Instead, we’ll have to do it through the internet - a sad state of affairs.
How important is the online side of your business?
Although we have an online presence, we find it hard to compete when the big companies all have their own sites. We still believe there’s nothing like the good old high street shop and that knowledgeable staff and great customer service are key to retail success.
What do you like most about the business?
The most satisfying part is when I’ve followed my instincts in choosing what to buy, then seeing it pay off when it sells. Beyond that, interacting with customers is probably the most pleasurable part of our job. For example, at the moment in the sports shop, the back-to-school trade brings in new families, who we then get to know, which is very rewarding.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
The changing face of retail. Over the past 10 years, we have had to compete with the internet, seven-day trading and the discount and sale culture. Many customers want everything ‘right now’ and at the cheapest possible price. We try to go out of our way to source products they might have seen online, but this also means margins are tighter than ever in order to compete.
Hopefully, the customer can see the benefits of coming to a retail store where we can give advice and let them try and touch products. We also always offer certain lines that are discounted in all of our stores, as customers have come to expect shops to have good offers all year round. Very high rents and business rates in Keswick also add to the challenges of running a profitable business.
Will the proposed new Sunday opening hours affect your business?
Relaxing Sunday opening hours for bigger retailers won’t affect our stores at all, as we’ve been open seven days a week for the last 20 years or more and Sundays are often one of our best trading days.
We open from 10am to 5pm on Sunday - 9.30am to 5.30pm the rest of the week - and we feel that these hours are acceptable for our staff. We have sympathy though for shop assistants who work for the bigger companies, who will no doubt take advantage of them by staying open a bit longer on Sundays.