Welcome to a new section on the website, called Around The UK. This will feature articles and interviews from different towns and cities.
The first interview is with Philip Morris & Son who were established in Hereford as an ironmongers over 150 years ago. Whilst true to its roots and very much still a family business Philip Morris & Son has developed into the thriving business of today encompassing department store and mail order.
As their website sums up:-
"The business today is based around 8 core departments. Each department has dedicated staff that are experts in their product areas and are happy to share their expertise with you. These departments included product ranges where we are established leaders such as Country clothing, Bathrooms Accessories and Barbecues, and others new items to the mix such as Linen, and luggage, which help to keep our product offering up to date for both the local and mail order markets."
The business was established in 1845 and is still named after the original owner Philip Morris. Some years later it passed to his son and then a third generation before being sold to Mr Albert Jones, the grandfather of the current managing partners, in 1945. For the first few years of its existence Philip Morris & Son was located in Hereford's High town area, approximately where Marks & Spencer's is today. The business was then relocated to the current premises in Widemarsh Street where it has traded uninterrupted for the last 160 years. In 2007 a second store, directly opposite the main shop was added and the clothing and gunroom departments relocated to the second shop.
Maurice Jones took over the business on the death of his father in 1974, and managed it, with his wife Bunty, until gradually handing over the reins to his two sons John and Bruce Jones in the last few years. Maurice and Bunty remain actively involved in the management and strategic direction of the business.
The room I conducted my interview in dates back to 1600's. I began by asking John Jones, managing partner...
How many staff work in the shops?
"Around forty and up to forty five people in busy periods such as Christmas time, work in the eight core departments, all offering their personal and professional skills. John told me that the core shoppers are the older generation and with the launch a few years ago of a toy department the younger generation also shop here now. There is perhaps a gap in the middle year age group. I have a feeling that will soon be filled with the ever expanding range of goods for sale."
How is the online end of the business?
"The online business,now in its eleventh year is thriving with 30,000 shoppers a year. John explained to me that this is a very important part of the business as it helps to ensure the town shops continue to remain open. Customers can browse online and order items, then collect them from the shops if the items are in stock, or have them sent direct by mail order."
Are there facilities for people who have disabilities or restricted movement?
"The building itself does not have very good disabled access due to the layout of its construction and the fact that it is a listed building, but customers are able to park outside for a short time to load goods bought in the shops. Also, the cheerful and knowledgable staff are more than happy to go to any of the departments and fetch what you need."
Inside Aladin's cave!
With the advent of a new shopping development opening in the spring in Hereford, I asked John if he was concerned this would affect the shops. His reply was yes and no, there will be a big department store in the new development, but that is the only one so far that could impinge on their sales. Also John feels it is very important that the city centre and the new development are brought together rather than split up as many of us in Hereford fear could happen.
As John is a family man with two small children he told me that he doesn't have time to relax as such, but his children are a delight to him and he enjoys spending as much time as possible with them. I asked him if he thought they may continue the family tradition of staying in the business and he quite rightly said, that is a long way off yet! He would encourage them to take a different avenue first before deciding to take over from the present family firm.
This concludes my interview. Thank you John for your time.
I came away thinking that Phillip Morris will be here for a lot lot longer, it is truly an Aladdin's cave of wonderment. All kinds of gadgets, cookery items, clothes, bathroom furniture, hardware and much much more. Do pop in if you live in, or are visiting Hereford. You won't be disappointed!
To find out more visit www.philipmorrisdirect.co.uk