Antiques centre's expansion plans tap into land of eastern promise
A Lincolnshire antiques business, already recognised as the largest in Europe, has launched an expansion programme to coincide with the launch of its Far East operation.
Hemswell Antique Centres, which is based on the former RAF base off the A15 10 miles north of Lincoln, already offers antiques provided by 300 dealers from across the UK and abroad.
Now it has bought out rival Guardroom Antiques at the entrance to the business park and will transform it into a 6,000 square foot centre to increase its stock to show items from 75 more dealers.
The move means that Hemswell Antique Centres will trade from four separate buildings on the estate.
Plans for the Guardroom, which will keep its existing name, include an extra floor and a new atrium-style roof.
And the interior design proposed by managing director Robert Miller was inspired by a recent trade mission to Japan. The company, based at Hemswell Cliff for 27 years, currently exports around 7 per cent of its antique sales to the Far East. It represents around 30 per cent of its entire overseas trade.
Mr Miller has just launched a new Japanese language website to capitalise on growth in the region. The site was developed over eight months by county-based web company TJS with the help of a professional translator.
Mr Miller believes the redeveloped Guardroom will act as a "gateway" to the rest of the Hemswell site and it is hoped the project will be completed by this autumn. "We plan to invest a significant sum to refurbish the building," he said. "We have already received an extremely positive response from both existing and potential new dealers, as well as customers.
"The company has invested heavily in its overseas growth in recent years with new mobile applications for iPad and smartphones and other foreign language websites.
"But our strategy plans are not just confined to foreign markets and electronic media.
"We know that many customers want to experience a more personal service and to see our antiques 'in the flesh' by visiting our centres. This acquisition is an important step in creating a strong and successful business and we are delighted to have finally secured the deal."
Hemswell Antique Centres employ more than 25 staff and has antiques on show from dealers as far afield as France, Australia, Ireland and Spain.
The centres, the first of which opened in 1986, attract nearly 4,000 visitors a week.
A thriving website attracts 40,000 unique visitors a month and the business was named as one of the top five antique centres in the UK by the BBC Homes and Antiques Magazine.