Surrey businesses beating the recession

PUBLISHED: 21:11 11 April 2012 | UPDATED: 16:16 20 February 2013

At Champneys in Guildford, Katherine Pye, right, says customers have been flocking in

At Champneys in Guildford, Katherine Pye, right, says customers have been flocking in

We may be in the midst of a recession, but there are many Surrey companies out there who have been managing to survive, and even prosper, through their creativity, business sense and, at times, sheer bloody-mindedness. Tracy Cook finds out some of...

Life's little luxuries for less

194 High Street,
Guildford GU1 3HZ
Tel: 01483 455850

You might think beauty treatments would be one of the first luxuries to be dropped in the depths of a recession but, interestingly, a spot of pampering is still very much at the top of people's priorities.

"Some of our customers say our treatments make them feel so good, they would rather have them than dinner and a night out," says retail director at Champneys in Guildford, Katherine Pye. "It's about making small things, like facials, manicures and pedicures, so luxurious that they become a necessity in our customers' lives."

With eight treatment rooms, plus manicure and pedicure areas, this spa in the heart of Guildford is certainly an oasis of calm - and it's easy to see why people might search out a little relaxation during otherwise stressful times.

"We were busy at the beginning of the year with a knock-over from Christmas and customers coming in with gift vouchers," says Katherine.

"But we can't expect business to happen like that all the time, so we've been concentrating on offering the best service at reduced prices, as well as giving away gifts with purchases."

Singing with your supper

The Dysart Arms
135 Petersham Road,
Richmond TW10 7AA
Tel: 0208 940 8005

Things were pretty bleak for pubs even before the world's economy turned against hardworking landlords - and The Dysart Arms, like many Surrey pubs, has had to look into ways of diversifying away from standard fare. While for summer, the pub is perfectly situated by the river and the entrance to Richmond Park, as the year progresses they don't get as much passing trade.

"We are working especially hard to attract customers with our music nights," says music manager Barny Taylor. "On Thursday evenings, we have some of the finest UK jazz stars - like Alan Barnes or BBC award-winner and Cleo Laine's daughter Jacqui Dankworth - singing or playing over dinner; Fridays bring jazz, classical or singer-songwriter types; and Saturdays are classical. We also hold four events in mid-November as part of the London Jazz Festival."

But The Dysart Arms isn't just about music: with a head chef who trained at Kensington Place, the menu changes daily and the emphasis is on fresh ingredients simply done. They are also offering a ladies lunch table every Wednesday, a singles night and WI monthly meetings. With so much going on, this is one pub that looks all set to beat the downturn blues.

Turning corners

Lyon Way, Frimley,
Camberley GU16 7ER

In June 2006, Farnham-based indoor karting company TeamSport posted a 100,000 loss. Their projected profit for 2009 is over 600,000. Even with the feel-good factor surrounding motor sport after Lewis Hamilton's world championship win last year, this marks a huge turnaround in fortunes in an unforgiving climate.

"The 2006 loss was a crucial turning point for us," says Paul Wrightman, owner and founder of TeamSport. "A combination of focused sales and marketing, a dedicated team and the decision to join Vistage International - a networking organisation - have all helped us increase our profit by nearly 20-fold."

The increase in profitability has also enabled them to embark on a major expansion. From humble beginnings with a single track in Guildford in 1990, the company now boasts eight tracks around the country.

"There is no doubt that there has also been a feel-good factor and renewed enthusiasm in motor sport over the last couple of years, largely due to Lewis Hamilton," says Dominic Gaynor, head of sales and operations. "At the same time, we have increased our market share and so capitalised on the effects of that feel-good factor, especially where youngsters are concerned. We now have a Kids' Karting Academy, too, to help encourage kids into karting."

Don't buy new, buy vintage!

Woking Hospice Shop
2 Commercial Way, Woking
GU21 6ET
Tel: 01483 766444

The credit crunch was just starting to loom its ugly head when the Woking Hospice Shop opened last August,
but since then sales have absolutely rocketed! Manager Caroline Othen puts it down to the exclusive vintage and designer names this branch specialises in.

"We've sold Hugo Boss, Versace, Burberry, handbags by Louis Vuitton - you name it," she says. "We've even had Mary Quant pieces. We get all the top-end wear here."
The shop also specialises in bridal wear - wedding dresses, morning suits and silk waistcoats.

"I sold a beautiful crystal wedding dress just last week for 250," adds Caroline. "It's really taking off for
us here."

It seems that unique vintage items at affordable prices certainly make an irresistible combination.

"Vintage wear is the new second-hand," says Caroline. "It's very acceptable now to come into charity shops and we get new stock every day. I have several girls who come in regularly - they buy suits, jumpers - sometimes four or five at a time.

"People are definitely more cautious with their money, but we offer something you can't get in your average shop, at great prices."

Britain's oldest pawnbrokers cash in

Harvey & Thompson Pawnbrokers
246 High Street, Sutton SM1 1PA
Tel: 0208 642 2115

It's one of the oldest trades in town - and one of the most successful, too. For Britain's oldest pawnbroker, Sutton-based Harvey & Thompson, business is booming.

"We have regulars who have been coming to us for several generations pawning their possessions when they need cash," says Mark Harrold, regional manager. "And now, with the credit crunch, we are getting new customers who need to borrow money quickly and those who can't get mainstream loans due to bad credit."

For those not accustomed to pawnbroking, Harvey & Thompson offer between 50 to 80 per cent of an item's value and over 80 per cent if stock is redeemed.

Mark is keen to point out that pawnbroking has shed the backstreet image of yesteryear and now their High Street shop offers a professional financial service, as well as selling second-hand jewellery.

"Our retail side is bucking the trend as well," he says. "People can buy a gold chain here for half the price of a new one, and with the price of gold so high they see it as an investment, too."

Eating in is the new going out

Glorious Food
at Priory Farm, Sandy Lane,
South Nutfield, Redhill RH1 4EJ

Fancy restaurant standard, fresh hand-cooked food, without the steep bill to go with it? Local cook Gill Potterton has set up Glorious Food, where you can order a two or three-course meal and then collect it from her kitchen at Priory Farm to re-heat in the comfort of your own home.

For those days when you can't be bothered to cook but want all the comfort of a home-cooked meal, dishes like Mediterranean chicken followed by raspberry brule tart hit the mark. Prices start at about 4 per person for a main course.

"By the time you've factored in taxis, babysitters and the price of wine in a restaurant, eating in makes sense," says Gill, who started Glorious Food last summer after cooking for Priory Farm for 12 years. Now she also caters for big functions, weddings, birthdays and dinner parties. "People thought I was mad starting my own business at a time like this," she says. "But I'm thrilled at how busy I have been."

And scream!

The Screen at Walton
85-89 High Street,
Tel: 0870 0664777

When the world is full of doom and gloom, a sure-fire way to get away from it all is a little escapism at the movies. Recession is a time where creativity tends to come to the fore and independent cinema The Screen at Walton is offering a children's club on Saturday mornings, with activities before the film is screened. Specifically for those aged four to ten years old, children's tickets are only 4 and the accompanying adult gets in for free.

"We're always looking at new ideas to keep people coming to see films through the recession," says manager Kirsty Child. "Thankfully, because of fantastic films such as Harry Potter, we're finding that admissions are staying high, both with family trips and adults looking for some time to themselves."

Kirsty says the Screen at Walton prides itself on highly personal service, offering small cinemas, ice creams sold at your seat (just like the old days) and a bar, so you can even take your glass of wine or beer into the movie with you.

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine September 2009

We may be in the midst of a recession, but there are many Surrey companies out there who have been managing to survive, and even prosper, through their creativity, business sense and, at times, sheer bloody-mindedness. Tracy Cook finds out some of their secrets to beating the credit crunch

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