Furniture firm Cousins buys Alan Ward site in Shrewsbury
Furniture retailer Cousins has purchased the former site of Alan Ward’s flagship Shrewsbury store.
The store in Ennerdale Road will reopen and be rebranded Cousins after fellow furniture firm Alan Ward went into liquidation.
Birmingham-founded Cousins has also confirmed it will be fulfilling outstanding orders customer had with Alan Ward.
Alan Ward's Newcastle-under-Lyme store will also reopen under the Cousins brand.
But talks are ongoing with the landlords of the stores in Chester and Winsford, before deciding on their long term future.
Robert Shotton, who founded Cousins with his brother Edward and confirmed Alan Ward had gone into liquidation, said the Shrewsbury store will be reopened "as soon as possible".
"We're very excited about taking over Shropshire’s undoubted number one shopping destination for furniture," he said.
"We hope to open the store as as soon as possible but there is some work for us to do there yet.
"Following on so soon after closing our Manchester store, it was always our intention to look for opportunities closer to home, but probably not so soon.
Talks with Alan Ward only started during lockdown and were concluded on Friday afternoon."
Uncertainty surrounding the future of Alan Ward led to existing customers contacting the Shropshire Star fearing that they could be left out of pocket from outstanding orders.
"It’s fantastic news for Shropshire, for both existing customers of Alan Ward and new customers.
"Cousins will be fulfilling all customer orders to people who previously thought they’d lost their money. They’ll also be looking to dramatically enhance the in-store experience, Mr Shotton said.
It is believed Alan Ward employed about 50 people in Shrewsbury and they have been made redundant.
Mr Shotton added no final decisions had been made about jobs at the new store.
The acquisition makes Cousins the largest independent family-run furniture retailer in the Midlands.
With many businesses closing and laying off staff because of the impacts of the coronavius pandemic, the Birmingham-founded firm said the opportunity to open a store close to home was too good to pass up.
The firm was founded in August 1984 by two brothers Robert and Edward Shotton and their cousin William, and the new store will add to existing showrooms in Dudley and Birmingham as well as Alan Ward’s former store in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Robert said the store in Shrewsbury will reopen “as soon as possible” after work is carried out on rebranding the site and “enhancing the in-store experience”.
“As well as displaying extensive galleries of the famous brands that Alan Ward were renowned for, we will be introducing many of our exciting own label ranges, including an exclusive bespoke sofa studio where customers can design their own sofa to their own made-to-measure sizes and optimal comfort levels,” Robert said.
“There is also their stylish Urban Chic collections that will bring a contemporary edge to the store and is particularly popular with the on-trend and younger demographic.”
Cousins has announced it will be fulfilling all outstanding customer orders.
The Shropshire Star has been contacted by several customers who have been unable to contact Alan Ward about their orders.
Meanwhile, Shropshire Council’s Trading Standards service has received at least 12 customer complaints.
‘Exciting move amid doom and gloom’
Robert added: “We are really pleased to be supporting existing customers, many of whom were concerned about losing a lot of money.
“We are really excited and are pleased to be announcing this move amongst all the doom and gloom at the moment. We have seen strong demand since our stores reopened and long may that continue.”
Alan Ward was formed in 1970, when Alan and Joan Hopkins opened their first store – a small carpet shop in Golden Cross Passage, Shrewsbury – with the help of a £500 bank loan.
The company outgrew its premises and moved to an out-of-town location in Harlescott in 1983. It is believed the company employed about 50 people in Shrewsbury and that they were made redundant after the company went into liquidation.
No one from the company has been available to comment in the last few weeks.
Richard Sheehan, chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the announcement by Cousins, describing it as a “positive outcome from difficult circumstances”.
“It is sad such an iconic brand has closed its doors and naturally I feel for the employees and customers.”
“However, it is an exciting outcome in one way with such a large business showing confidence in Shrewsbury.”