Norwich-based QD can capitalise on ‘value shopping trend’, says new operations director

David Haycox, QD Stores David Haycox, QD Stores

Ben Woods Business writer ben.woods@archant.co.uk
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
11:32 AM

QD Stores must capitalise on the new wave of customers shopping at discount supermarkets to remain ahead of the competition in a crowed market place, its operations director said.

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David Haycox believes the Norwich-based organisation is perfectly placed to take advantage of the growing trend of middle class shoppers abandoning mainstream supermarkets to buy their groceries at Aldi and Lidl – despite the business facing an increased challenge from 99p stores and pound shops at the bottom end of the market.

It comes as QD Stores looks to secure a firmer financial footing after it slumped from a £10.6m pre-tax profit in 2012 to £2.6m pre-tax loss in 2013, according to its accounts ending February 28 2013.

• Bosses at QD admit flagship Norwich store will not be re-opening

Mr Haycox said the group – which includes QD Stores, Cherry Lane Garden Centres, Thingmebob and Lathams of Potter Heigham – was actively looking to open new stores within the region, and had recently launched a Thingmebobs shop in Swaffham and had taken over the Early Dawn Nursery near Lowestoft.

But the company has yet to replace its flagship St Stephens Street store in Norwich, which it gave up following a protracted negotiation over the store’s lease from landlords the East of England Co-operative Society.

Mr Haycox, who joined QD after working as the operation’s controller at supermarket Morissons, said that shopping at value retailers was a “fashionable” trend that the company needed to exploit.

“Parading a Lidl or an Aldi carrier bag used to be a strange thing to do, but now it is a badge of honour,” he said.

“QD has great experience in the value retail sector, especially when it comes to buying. We can buy different and interesting stock that other retailers simply cannot do.

“Having come from a massive business which was like a super tanker when it came to change, I feel like I am now in a racing yacht. We can accelerate our discussions and ideas very quickly.

“It is a crowded market place, but it is one that is expanding as well. I think it is not difficult to maintain your stores as long as you offer what the customer wants.”

Turnover for The EDP Top100 company remained flat last year, rising slightly from £59.1m in 2012 to £59.8m, as gross profit grew from £22.1m to £22.5m.

Mr Haycox added: “We are certainly looking to open new stores all the time. Growth for growth’s sake is not important for us. We have to find good sites for our business. It was sad to lose the St Stephens Street store in Norwich, but under the circumstances it was the right thing to do.

“It is important we grow sustainably and profitably with business that we can sustain.”

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