Inside the independent Sunderland womenswear store with a £1million turnover
A Sunderland businesswoman has gone from selling clothes from one clothes rail, which she’d walk up Blandford Street to boost custom, to turning over a million pounds in just six years.
Sara Stafford has long had a passion for finding unusual accessories and garments while travelling the world, and after setting up a belly-dancing studio in Waterloo Place, Sunderland city centre, in 2015 she began selling jewellery and items not available elsewhere in the UK.
She soon began selling clothes from just one rail and, despite business being slow some days, she would walk her rail through the city centre to encourage people to pay her Studio B store a visit.
Noticing a good marketing opportunity, she also began doing Facebook Lives to show people her products and engage with her customers. People soon began to notice her passion and products, and today her business has a million pound turnover and employs 12 people, as well as providing a platform for 20 Studio B self-employed reps around the country.
Husband John Cornforth, former SAFC player and Wales International, soon came on board to help with the business and the pair have now moved the warehouse to premises in Sheepfolds Industrial Estate to help meet their thousands of weekly orders.
From Saturday, June 26 a new showroom will also open at the site in Hay Street for people who prefer to buy in person.
Sara said: “I feel proud when I look at how far the business has come. I never give up on things and I always believed in what I was doing.”
She added: "I started selling things like Indian jewellery and belly dancing bells, unusual things that Sunderland hadn’t seen before. The studio was upstairs and no one knew I was there, but I would look out of the window and see all these people and I knew how good my products were.
"I only had one rail then, but I would print leaflets and walk the rail up and down Blandford Street. People would warm to me and they would come to the shop. Lots of people are wanting things that are a bit different, so it soon took off.”
As the business grew, Sara moved to bigger units in Bridge Street before moving to the large warehouse and showroom in Sheepfolds last September. It’s helped them meet the increase in demand for their womenswear and accessories which in lockdown saw sales increase from 100 a day to 400.
As well as selling brands such as Antica Sartoria and Talia, Studio B is creating its own brand clothing, and also stocks lifestyle products from emerging designers and artists.
Sara said: “All our customers are like friends, whenever we go live on Facebook people really like it, because they feel part of it, it’s a community. We look after our customers and they look after us.”
*Studio B showroom in Hay Street, Sheepfold Industrial Estate, opens from 10am on June 26, on what would have been Sara’s late sister Anne’s 50th birthday. It will be open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm.