Opinion: Dunelm - our Next success
There was some upbeat news amidst the gloom of Leicestershire losing more than 450 manufacturing jobs last week, writes Business Editor Ian Griffin.
Figures showed Dunelm, of Syston, had leapfrogged high street icon John Lewis to become the UK's leading homeware retailer.
This was on the same week Schlegel Automotive Europe, in Bardon Hill, Coalville, went into administration with the loss of 222 jobs, while the owner of pie and pizza-maker RF Brookes, of South Wigston, announced it would close, resulting in 229 redundancies.
Many may see the decline and demise of two big manufacturing names while a service sector business prospers, as a sign of the times.
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However, Dunelm is the latest in a long line of Leicestershire retail successes going back many decades.
Next, Curry's, Wilkinson, Halfords and Jessops, all major national high street brands, were all founded in the county, and two of them are still based here.
Dunelm, with 127 stores, has not yet achieved the same level of national exposure as these other companies, which makes its achievement all the more remarkable. It has also reached this milestone after 33 years, whereas John Lewis was founded in 1864.
Dunelm founder and president Bill Adderley wants the group to double in size over the next 10 years, after which time it is likely to be a household name in the South-East of England as much as it now is in the East Midlands.
His ambition is for Dunelm to become one of Britain's great retail businesses.
Back on the subject of declining manufacturing, yes, UK manufacturing is on a downward slide, but the industry still makes up a higher proportion of the county's economy than it does nationally – 17 per cent compared to 11 per cent.
Unfortunately, high-profile job losses such as at Schlegel and RF Brookes gives the impression the situation is a lot worse than it actually is.
There are a lot of positive things happening in manufacturing in Leicestershire, including at Doyles, of Thurmaston (see front).
Other upbeat stories include expanding county motorcycle marques Triumph and Norton and growing Melton-based food firm Samworth Brothers, as well as popcorn maker Savoury & Sweet, of Leicester.