Norfolk department store boss to take a step back

The managing director of a much-loved Norfolk family business is taking a step back after 28 years at the helm.

Bruce Sturrock, who is now 61, and a direct descendant of the founders of popular department store Palmers, which has shops across the region, has weathered two recessions, seen a sea change in the retail climate and secured the future of the long-established business when he and his sister bought out numerous family shareholders.

It is the first time the role of managing director will not have been held by a family member, but the family ties will not be cut as Mr Sturrock will continue as chairman.

The new MD will oversee the day-to-day running of the business and take on responsibility for sales, marketing and buying.

Mr Sturrock, who is also the chairman of the Great Yarmouth Town Centre Partnership and a governor at Great Yarmouth College, said the search for the new MD is part of a management restructure which has come about as several employees retire over the next two years.

Under Mr Sturrock the company expanded significantly through the 90s. Between 1989 and 2004 the company grew company from two stores and a turnover of �4m to seven stores with a turnover of �20m

The King's Lynn and Newmarket stores were sold in 2005 in order to buy out the shareholders.

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The firm still has stores in Dereham, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and two in Bury St Edmunds.

Over his career at the top of Palmers Mr Sturrock said the growth of Norwich and the explosion of the internet had made it a much more competitive environment for retail.

'There is not the same loyalty there was 40 years ago. I am not asking for it. There is more competition in the market than used to be. You look at Norwich and you have two new shopping centres in that period. There is massively more choice than there used to be and people shop around a lot more than they used to.

'We have to adapt to a different market and we feel we offer quality and value but particularly customer service. That's our point of difference and that puts us in a good state.

'I feel that things have swung around and people are looking for good service and I think we are well placed as far as that is concerned. There are a lot of shops where you do not get a good service', he said.

Mr Sturrock said that like many other business the last two years had been really hard.

'The last couple of years have been the most difficult I have known', he said

But, he said he could see light at the end of the tunnel and sales had been up 13pc up over the Christmas and New Year.

'Some of it was down to the weather. That meant that people didn't travel.'