Thursday (November 14th) marked a landmark change in one of Stornoway’s town businesses. After nearly forty years in the Sports Retail trade, Billy Flower has instigated the process of passing the business onto his eldest son, Stuart.
As one of the few remaining local businesses in the Town Centre, it is encouraging to see the Sportsworld store remain in local hands. Stuart has been learning the daily running of the business over the last eighteen months and Billy intends to steadily reduce his hours in the business over the next couple of years to allow Stuart to fully understand the requirements of running a business. “I would like to emphasise that this is not an early retirement,” stated Billy earlier this week. “I will still be around the place two or three days a week but I would like to gradually pass the business onto Stuart.
“Stuart has been learning the book keeping and stock control side of Sportsworld for over a year now and I have to recognise that our target market is mainly Stuart’s age rather than mine. He has a lot of good ideas going forward and I am a sure he will make a success of it.
“I am also delighted that the business is being kept local. We have a vast amount of loyal and local customers so we want to assure them that this change will not affect them in any way.
“Stuart will now be trying to build relationships with his current customers and trying to attract more customers through the Sportsworld doors.” Billy admits he is passing on the business in a difficult economic climate but feels Stuart is ready for the challenge.
A keen sportsman, Stuart has taken part in many sports and is also a keen fisherman, unlike his father who is more known locally for his knowledge of football rather than a fishing rod!
Stuart intends to increase the fishing side of the business and, with his local angling knowledge behind him, is already making plans to visit mainland trade shows to make sure Sportsworld has the latest stock ideas and the best prices and deals to offer their customers.
“The current economic climate is probably not the best time to introduce this change over,” says Billy “but Stuart is up for the challenge and has his own ideas to introduce.
“Whereas members of the public try to buy local, some clubs and businesses are heading straight online and this is difficult to understand when all local businesses are looking for more custom and should be working together to help each other.
“We have to remember that it is the local custom which allowed us to employ ten local people last year.” Stuart is well aware of the need to encourage customers to buy locally, as he said: “This year, I have tried to talk to as many of our customers as I can to see what we, as a business, can do to help them.
“I have taken note of their comments and from today you will notice some changes in our stock lines. We will have a bigger range of our core products as well as introducing lines that have been requested i.e. increased running and rugby ranges and a brand new boxing section.
“We have changed the interior layout of the shop to try and make it easier to shop and have spoken to a lot of our fishing customers about what changes I can introduce next season.”
He continued: “I also intend to get in touch with the many sports clubs on the island and invite them in for a coffee and a chat to see if we can help them more in these difficult times.
“I decided a few years ago that I would like to make a career on the island and not be one of the many who has to move away. I hope that, with the support of the local public and businesses, I will be able to make Sportsworld a mutually beneficial place to shop for all of us.
“I am very grateful to my father, to my accountant and to the Business Gateway advisors who have helped me immensely in the past few months and whilst I will always be grateful for my father’s knowledge and advice of the business, I would like to try and develop it and put my own spin on the shop.”
Stuart added: “I will slowly introduce new lines, a new colour scheme, new staff uniforms and make the whole shop a WI-FI open zone so that we can move with the times.
“I want people to tell me how I can improve their shopping experience in Sportsworld. It is a nerve-wracking, yet exciting, time for me!” It is excellent news for our island to see an established business being passed down through a local family and we hope that Stuart and his plans for Sportsworld get the support and recognition they hope to obtain from the local community.