Latest News | 25 February 2021

Historic retailer Hunters determined to remain part of the future

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Over the past 12 months, a sector that has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic is retail.

Retailers have had to adapt to survive, coming up with new and innovative products and services – and among them is Marketing Derby Bondholder Hunters, Derby’s oldest furniture store dating back to 1928.

Today, the St Peters Quarter-based family business, which supplies homes in and around Derbyshire with quality furniture, beds and accessories, is run by husband-and-wife Matt and Nina Sheard. Here, in her own words, Nina shares Hunters’ journey through the pandemic – and why she is remaining positive about the future.


When the Government announced the first lockdown way back in March last year we were devastated.

Apart from at Christmas, it was the first we had closed our doors in over 90 years in business.

The impact was immediate because our showrooms in Babington Lane are the heart of our business. They are the place where our customers can see and feel the furniture, helping them to choose the right pieces for their homes.

Although we remained positive and refocussed our efforts on our online shop and social media channels, we weren’t sure how our customers would react.

Initially, it was difficult, as everyone had to adjust to the unknown of lockdown.

At first, people didn’t spend money on furnishing their homes and we were very glad of the furlough scheme that was on offer as we found we had to use this for most of our staff.

Apart from furlough, the business didn’t receive any funding initially. The size of the business meant we fell through many of the gaps, so we still had to pay our rent, suppliers, utilities and other bills.

It’s no secret that the high street has been struggling in its traditional form for some time now and the events of 2020 exacerbated this downturn.

We were very lucky as our reputation for great customer service, good quality brands and expertise really helped us and we attracted many new customers, as well as still working with existing loyal customers.

We had to adapt quickly. We updated our collections online and started to focus on our design business and digital marketing, which for a high street store was a big change for us.

It soon became apparent that people did want to improve their homes. Our online shop was a great place for people to see our collections, backed up with support on the phone and via e-mail.

Matt and Nina Sheard

We were absolutely thrilled to finally open our doors again finally on 3 June after closing them on 23 March.

We spent much of that time reshaping the showrooms, ready to welcome people back safely – but we weren’t sure whether people would come back to the city centre so soon.

The one thing that we miss the most is providing the experience of a showroom, with inspiring room settings and modern home design.

The summer was great for us. As we reopened our doors our home design service took off.

We now have a design team who bring a mixture of great modern design, along with knowledge and home design accreditations.

We couple this with our in-depth knowledge of how people live and respond, not only to style and layout, but also making sure that the home is still a home and not a showroom.

We also had a great year for our kitchen design service as trades people were still allowed to work and this could continue safely.

We introduced new ways of working in client’s homes to make sure everyone remained safe and at ease while kitchens were being fitted.

Unfortunately, we had to close for a second time on 4 November, which was a real blow and wasn’t expected.

Then we had the devastating news that we had to close for the third national lockdown on 4 January – which is where we currently are.

I think this lockdown has been the most difficult for everyone. We have remained positive, as our showrooms lie empty of people, but we are still open for business thanks to our home design and kitchen fitting services, online store and great relationships with our customers who have been amazing.

Going forward, how retail on the high street will develop is not something we can comfortably predict.

What we do know and what we have learned is that people still like the experience, theatre and social interaction that shops offer and this can’t easily be replicated online.

We believe that the high street will change beyond our imagination and major developments such as the Becketwell regeneration project will help these changes to be positive ones.

Our main concern, as retailers outside of these schemes, is that the council needs to invest in its public realm, helping to attract and lead people through the city.

The last thing we need is for people to arrive in Derby to visit Becketwell and not venture out of that area because the city doesn’t join up visually.

We also know that an important part of a city centre’s heart is its theatres, and other cultural venues. We hope these will play an important part of our high street in the future.

Working together with other retailers, we know that it isn’t a quick fix but people will come back to shop, spend a little leisure time here and hopefully visit the great arts and cultural venues.

As for our business, we are determined to continue to listen to our customers and to evolve as the high street and customer trends change.

Hunters is here to stay and we see our home design and kitchen fitting services as real growth areas in the future.

As many businesses have found, the lockdowns have forced us to focus our thinking on how to drive the business forward and we will come out of this a leaner, fitter business than we were at the beginning.

We feel positive about the future but we can’t do this as a retailer on our own.

We still need the city centre to attract people to it to help us keep the high street an interesting and entertaining place to visit.


Author: Nina Sheard, co-owner of Hunters


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