Studio B has built up a loyal following thanks to its ethos of ‘fashion for everyone’ and last year reached a million pound turnover after using social media to keep its online customers engaged in lockdown.
Now, they’ve transformed the empty former Thomas Cook unit at Sainsbury’s Silksworth to open a second shop in the city.
It’s a sister site to the two warehouses and showroom in Hay Street, Monkwearmouth, and in its first few days of trading is already receiving good feedback.
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Sara Stafford, who founded the business at its original site in Waterloo Place in 2015, said: “We have a great following and people have been visiting from all over.
"But one in three of the customers have been new customers who’ve been passing to do their shopping in Sainsbury’s, which is fantastic to welcome new customers. They love it, they say there’s nothing else like this in Sunderland.”
As well as having a strong e-commerce operation, Sara says physical stores are also an important part of the business.
"It’s a full shopping experience here,” she said. “There’s nothing like being able to touch, feel and try on the clothes, as well as the service we provide."
Speaking about what appealed about this new site, she said: “There’s a lot on this site for people, with Argos, the Range and the other units, with 50,000 people visiting a week. It also has free parking, which is ideal. People don’t want to have to pay for parking, like in the city centre.”
Sara long believed in her business and, even though sales were slow when she founded the company in the city centre seven years ago, she would wheel her clothes rail up and down Blandford Street to drum up trade.
She said: "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 Industrial Estate. Husband John Cornforth, former SAFC player and Wales International, also came on board to help with the business and help deal with the thousands of online orders they receive each week.
"We’re going from strength to strength with worldwide sales and we’ve taken on more staff. We now have 20 full-time and part-time staff and we’re looking for more,” said Sara. “I feel so proud to have something like this in Sunderland.”
As well as selling brands such as Antica Sartoria and Talia, Studio B now has its own brand and John and Sara regularly travel to Italy to liaise with designers.
They also stock also stock lifestyle products from emerging designers and artists.
:: Studio B, Silksworth is open seven days a week from 9am to 6pm, with late night shopping on Thursdays until 8pm and Sunday hours of 11am to 4pm.