Leyburn retailer weathering storm hitting high streets

Rishi Sunak with, from left, Leonie, David and Eleanor Garrard and, right, Emma Devine, Milner’s business development manager.

A Leyburn retailer has explained to Rishi Sunak how it is beating back the storm winds battering the High Street.

The Richmond MP visited Leyburn’s department store Milners and heard how the family-run business is revolutionising its business model to combat the threat posed by the switch to online shopping.

During a tour of the store in the Market Place, Mr Sunak met Keith and Leonie Garrard, their daughter Eleanor, the fifth generation Milner to be involved in the business, and members of the team.

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Mr Garrard, managing director, said the secret of Milners’ success in 2018 was its commitment to personal service and building relationships with customers.

“That is our unique selling point,” he said.

“Online retailers because of their very nature can’t offer that personal experience and we find our customers recommend us and keep coming back.”

Mr Garrard said the store’s interior design service was expanding at a phenomenal rate.

He still visited customers in their homes to discuss their requires for curtains, carpets and blinds  – a tradition in the business dating back to when the business was first established in the 19th century when Christopher Milner toured Wensleydale in a horse and trap with his wares.

Mr Sunak said Milners was setting a great example to other family High Street/market town retailers in its customer service ethos and the way it had updated its brand in recent years.

“Businesses like Milners, based in traditional market towns, offer a customer something which cannot be replicated online and the bigger retailers, because of their scale, struggle to match.”

Milners was established in Hawes in 1883 and further stores were opened in later years in Kirkby Stephen, Middleham and Leyburn. The current Leyburn premises opened in 1966 and today the store focusses on interior design and women’s fashions and craft. There is a haberdashery department and additional services include clothing repairs alterations and dry cleaning.