Saved by The Bell

Paul Hurst, owner of Bondholder The Old Bell Hotel on Sadler Gate, has stepped in to keep Derby's much-loved Bennetts brand alive both on the high street and online.

Mr Hurst has secured the fixed assets and goodwill of Bennetts – the world’s oldest independent department store – with plans well underway to create a new retail website showcasing iconic brands from Derby and the UK.

John Forkin, Managing Director of Marketing Derby said “We are delighted that the Bennett’s name finally has a future secured. Paul has a successful track record, having rejuvenated the Old Bell and plays a positive role in the city, not least as a Marketing Derby Bondholder. We will be providing what support we can to ensure the world’s oldest department store has a vibrant future.”

Due to the dilapidated condition of the existing Bennetts Iron Gate building, a physical store is not a viable option in the short term and Mr Hurst will be searching for a new Cathedral Quarter location or a solution to the extensive building work required on the current building.

Mr Hurst is best known for restoring The Old Bell Hotel to its former glory. The Grade II listed building was constructed in 1650. It is Derby’s largest and last surviving coaching inn and considered one of the most prestigious coaching inns outside London.

Mr Hurst explained: “I am incredibly passionate about Derby and particularly the Cathedral Quarter. The Old Bell Hotel was a labour of love but I was determined that this iconic building was not lost to the city. I feel just the same about the Bennetts brand and our team will use all the expertise developed throughout The Old Bell restoration and marketing to keep the name alive – not just locally but across the world.

“We have worked tirelessly to look at all the options including re-configuring the building in Iron Gate to keep Bennetts open in its original home. However, there is at least £300,000 of work that needs to be done immediately and I am sure that more major repairs are likely to be uncovered during work on such an old building.

“Rather than focusing all our efforts and funds on a crumbling building, we will create a brand new website for Bennetts which will bring the brand in line with the demands of today’s high street as well as appealing to a wider demographic. This will feature great British brands, names synonymous with Derby as well as up and coming designers."

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A stock clearance sale planned by the current administrators is not goodbye. Paul Hurst added “The vision is to create a modern retail experience with events and new brands that will make it a destination for the whole family to enjoy. The upcoming stock sale is the perfect opportunity to get people back into Bennetts and to re-engage with people about our future plans.”

Paul Mallatratt, Joint Administrator for Bennetts said: “Following the concerning turn of events in August we are pleased to have found an alternative solution for Bennetts, and especially one led by a person evidently committed to Derby’s Cathedral Quarter. We will be working closely with Paul Hurst and his team in order to ensure the smooth transition of Bennetts to its new owners by the end of October.”