Jason Hadlow
Anna Addison

Member Article

Teesside retail entrepreneur forced to re-open store

Teesside retail entrepreneur, Jason Hadlow, has taken the unprecedented step of re-opening his ailing furniture store due to unusually high customer demand, in part brought on by the bad weather.

In May, after more than 20 years of successful trading in North Yorkshire, Jason decided to shut down Simply Dutch in Leeming Bar as sales slumped.

The store, famous for selling unusual furniture, homewares and antiques, ran into difficult times because of the recession and was operating at a loss.

Jason, from Yarm, started a huge closing down sale reducing products by more than 50%- as the bad weather across the region continued. However the sale resulted in a backlash from his hundreds of loyal- and many new- customers, who flocked to the store expressing their anger and disappointment at Jason’s closing down plans and, in less than 4 weeks, the business’s turnover reached £250,000- bucking the recessionary climate.

Jason explained: “Rumours were rife about Simply Dutch closing down for a while- it was the only logical decision for me as a businessman. But I really didn’t expect such a backlash from as many customers. Many had shopped with us for more than a decade. Some were really angry, others just upset, but the sale really showed me that there was a huge passion for our quirky furniture and home-wares- especially when I realised we’d taken over a quarter of a million pounds in less than a month. We were probably boosted by the inclement weather as well because people were looking for things to do indoors- and bargain-hunting seemed top of their list.”

As a result, Jason has re-opened Simply Dutch and restructured the business slightly in response to customer demand for more oak furniture and unusual home-wares and less outdoor furniture because of the erratic weather. Ten jobs have also been saved.

However, Jason has also become the victim of a poster campaign and has received threatening emails about his business. He said: “The posters and emails have cropped up around Yarm but I won’t be bullied and it has only made me stronger in my resolve to deliver a fantastic store and customer experience. It’s the small minority trying to affect what I do but the majority of people are incredibly supportive so I’m soldiering on, trade has really picked up and hopefully we’re bucking the recessionary trend.”

Jason Hadlow took over Simply Dutch in 2004 and quickly pushed the business’s turnover to well in excess of £1 million annually. The Teesside-based entrepreneur re-located his family from London to Yarm when he bought Simply Dutch, after visiting the store by chance and meeting its former owner, Alfie Gilmour, who was retiring.

Jason, who established Gigis Espresso Bar in London in 1999 which he later sold to contract catering firm Compass Group, kept all of the original staff on and has recruited several more over the years.

Under Jason’s ownership, Simply Dutch has had a colourful history, often attracting unwanted attention.

In April 2010, Jason had a four feet penis-shaped garden ornament confiscated by North Yorkshire Police after it caused a string of complaints. He was issued with a public order offence for displaying the stone phallus in his shop window and ordered to pay an £80 fine. The public showed Jason huge support and set up a global ‘Free Willy’ campaign with over 2000 members joining the Facebook group in under a week, a dedicated website set up in its honour and posters and stickers being emblazoned around North Yorkshire. Jason even hit the headlines in Australia, America and around Europe.

And in 2009, Jason had a life-sized dinosaur impounded when disembarking a ferry at Hull. Police used sniffer-dogs to search the dinosaur- and Jason- believing drugs could have been hidden inside the fibre glass animal.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Anna Addison .

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