Crowdfunding campaign to save “world’s oldest department store” launched

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Bennetts crowdfunding
// Crowdfunding campaign to save Bennetts now in full swing
// Bennetts is thought to be the world’s oldest department store
// Retailer fell into administration last month

A crowdfunding campaign to save Bennetts, dubbed the world’s oldest department store, from collapse has been launched as administrators continue discussions with interested buyers.

Fashion company Young Ideas launched an online fundraising campaign that features a detailed plan to save the heritage retailer, which has branches in Derby and Ashbourne.

The campaign was launched on February 26 and has already raised £10,380.

However, this is only a fraction of the £450,000 goal that Young Ideas, which has a concession with Bennetts, needs to achieve in order to save the 285-year old business from complete collapse.

Bennetts, which first opened its doors in Derby’s Cathedral Quarter in 1734, called in administrators from Bridgewood Financial Solutions last month after being hit by weakening consumer confidence, online competition and growing costs.

The administrators said the heritage department store’s loyal customer base had not been enough to keep it going during a “very challenging” period on the UK high street.

Both Bennetts stores continue to trade as a going concern while the administrators explore a sale with potential buyers.

In a statement, Young Ideas said a turnaround plan for Bennetts was possible and it was prepared to invest in the business with the support of local stakeholders.

Young Ideas added that it would need to hit their initial target to save Bennetts, and that part of its plans includes transforming it into a “mini John Lewis”.

It also said that if its rescue plan was successful, it would retain staff and create jobs.

“After detailed investigation into the trading performance and cost base and using Young Ideas retail experience and unique insight into the Derby store, we believe a turnaround plan for all or part of the struggling operation may be possible,” Young Ideas said.

“Young Ideas is prepared to invest in the plan and with the support of local advisors, we would be willing to provide the management and leadership to execute a rescue strategy.”

It added: “We have been trading successfully out of our store in Bennetts Derby since 2011.

“From this experience we have a unique insight into trading in the Cathedral Quarter area of Derby and an insight into the day-to-day operations, people and management of the existing Bennetts business.

“It is clear that significant investment is required to refurbish parts of the store and acquire the stock required to improve the customer offer and make the whole business relevant again to its local market.

“Sadly, the previous management who worked hard to maintain the company were just unable to find the financial resources to make this happen.

“We are excited at the prospect of creating a new revitalised Bennetts and believe a new inspiring and relevant retail offer could be transformational for Derby and the Cathedral Quarter.

“We hope that the key influential people of Derbyshire who have all expressed an interest in helping Bennetts to survive can rally around our successful management team to try and save this historic Derby landmark.

“We would appeal to any of the funding pots from within the Derbyshire area who could contribute to this plan and perhaps the council can assist with this initiative.”

Meanwhile, Bennetts’ administrators said they have received “significant” levels of interest from potential buyers.

The also said discussions with potential buyers would continue over the next few weeks, and a formal announcement would be made should a sale be successful.

“We are very encouraged by the wide ranging interest being shown in this iconic brand and are working closely with all interested parties,” joint administrator and Bridgewood managing director Paul Mallatratt said.

“We note the crowdfunding initiative which has been launched by one such party, which also presents an opportunity for individuals from the local community and further afield to become directly involved in helping to save Bennetts.”

The crowdfunding page can be found here.

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