Bennetts is back
Bennetts, the world’s oldest department store, has returned to the virtual high street with the official launch of a new retail website.
Derby businessman Paul Hurst, best known for restoring and reopening The Old Bell Hotel, in Sadler Gate, bought the fixed assets and goodwill of the historic Iron Gate business just over a year ago.
Paul said: “We started planning the website as soon as the stock clearance sale finished 12 months ago – and then we hit lockdown.
“Despite the challenges, we are delighted that Bennetts’ new website perfectly reflects the quality and choice that shoppers enjoyed instore for so many years.”
Since securing the deal for Bennetts, Paul and his team have been working with suppliers both old and new to source gifts, food and drink, homewares, nursery items, toys and games, as well as Christmas decoration ranges.
The team has also been painstakingly clearing the remaining contents and fittings from the Iron Gate store, as well as archiving the historic records of the business, which was established in 1734.
While the launch of the new website is key moment for the business, Paul remains confident that Bennetts will one day re-open as a flagship store in the heart of Derby’s Cathedral Quarter – bringing a new retail theatre experience to the city centre.
He said: “This website launch is a pinnacle in our long-term project to ensure the Bennetts brand remains strong with a 21st century online shopping experience.
“We have initially concentrated on ranges which proved particularly popular with shoppers previously and will be expanding the website over the coming months to include, for example, men’s and women’s designer fashion labels.
“We now have a team of six people working in administration, marketing and warehousing here in Derby and aim to achieve next day delivery on all items in stock.
“The launch of the new website is just the first element of the Bennetts story moving forwards.
“Although online sales will be an increasingly important aspect of the business, we remain committed to re-opening the physical store in the Cathedral Quarter but with a modern look and feel that all the family will enjoy.
“There is a great deal of work required to bring the Iron Gate premises back into full use. Lockdown and the ongoing restrictions have obviously pushed back the timeline to achieving this.
“However, I am hopeful that we will be able to announce progress early next year.
“We can then forge ahead with our plans for a modern retail theatre experience with events and new brands that will make it a destination in the Cathedral Quarter - creating 30 new jobs right here in Derby.
“Retail is changing and evolving and we will ensure Bennetts will be at the forefront of those changes as it has been for nearly three centuries.”
As well as showcasing products, the new website also features the history of the brand and some of its milestones, including the many celebrity visitors Bennetts has hosted over the years.
Mr Hurst said: “We have preserved the records, photographs and memorabilia that have been stored away for generations and now plan to work with the University of Derby to create an archive that can be enjoyed both online and, hopefully, in person in future.”