Entrepreneur sets out to rescue stores after Dorset success story
An entrepreneur who resurrected a high street store could become the next Mary Portas by helping other retailers find success.
Claire Robertson made a name for herself in the wake of the collapse of the Woolworths chain. She re-opened the Dorchester store, naming it Wellworths and re-employing almost all of the former staff.
With the store, now re-named Wellchester, continuing to trade successfully, Ms Robertson has decided to leave her post as the shop’s manager for a new career helping other aspiring retailers achieve their business ambitions.
She is starting her own consultancy venture, called Realising Retail Potential (RRP-UK).
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Ms Robertson, from Yeovil, said: “When Woolworths went, I felt the need to keep a small piece of it alive on the high street, and I was passionate about keeping a general retail store in the heart of Dorchester.
“Although I was instrumental in setting up Wellworths and I was the manager, taking it through the name change to Wellchester and implementing an e-commerce website, I did not have the lease on the store, and I was not actually a stakeholder in the business.
“I have now decided that it is time to realise a long-time ambition to actually run my own business. I am putting my experience into setting up my own retail support company.
“It is for all areas of retail, including start-ups and people who want help getting into the business.”
Her passion for high street retailing and the need for reform in the sector echoes that of Mary Portas, who shot to fame for rescuing shops in a TV series and has since helped a government project to boost the sector.
Ms Robertson said: “The high street is undergoing a huge change, and without some effort to recognise that, and rejuvenate, it is going to continue to slide.
“The internet and out-of-town shopping centres are still having a major impact, and as Mary Portas has said, we have to recognise that change is needed and it is needed quickly.
“Over the last three years I have had many requests to help people, but my time was fully taken up, so I am really excited now to be able to get involved.
“Yes, this is a challenging time for the high street and for retail in general, but that just makes it all the more important to get everything right.”
It had been hoped to expand the Wellworths brand by opening further stores across the South West. Plans were halted by Woolworths brand owner Shop Direct, because of the similarity to the name of the high street chain which collapsed in November 2008. Ms Robertson subsequently changed the store’s name to Wellchester.
Her efforts saw the mum of two nominated for the Bombardier Champion of England award in 2009.