Kernow Model Rail Centre expands with second shop

09 March 2019
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The Cornish model retailer, Kernow Model Retail Centre plans to open a new shop in Guildford, and is recruiting now! Howard Smith finds out why...

Kernow Model Rail Centre is opening a new store – here’s why…

At a time when physical model shops are feeling pressures, reduced footfall on the high street and irregularities in the supply of new models – how is one model shop bucking the trend? We spoke with owner of Cornish model retailer, Kernow Model Rail Centre, to find out why opening a second store in Guildford, 247 miles away from its home in Camborne, Cornwall, makes sense.

Howard Smith: Chris – it’s a bold move isn’t it? Particularly as we keep being reminded that online retailing is the future and shops are closing...

Chris Trerise: It is, and I'm well aware of what people might be thinking, but you have to ask yourself in the model retail business, why were those shops closing? Did they have a significant online presence? Probably not... And, quite often, their owners were retiring and couldn't find new owners.

Howard: Tell us about your new shop – new premises, same name – why?

Chris: It's well recognised. If it isn't broken, don't fix it! You can eat Cornish pasties outside of Cornwall, so we'll keep the Kernow Model Rail Centre brand name in the same way.  

Howard: Why the location and how does it compare in size to your current shop at Camborne?

Kernow Model Rail Centre Guildford

75 Stoke Road, Guildford - home at present to Pedal Pushers, but soon to become Kernow Model Rail Centre's second shop outlet.

Chris: Guildford felt like the ideal place. I used to work there with my previous careers in the police and on the railway. We also have staff in that area, too. Quite often I still find myself in the area visiting exhibitions such as Farnham & District MRC's show, the Crawley and Woking shows, and it's an area I know really well. It aligns with our customer base too - many of whom approach us regularly and say it's a shame there are no model shops in the area.

Howard: Do the advantages of running a physical model shop really outweigh the reduced overheads of a virtual one?

Chris: It's hard to increase your online presence. We already know the costs of running a shop with ours in Camborne. The key is to look at the avoidable costs because rates soon add up. The new shop is a bicycle store at present, but when we fit it out, it'll have a bigger retail area than Camborne, despite its smaller overall footprint.   

Howard: I suppose you’re looking to recruit new staff?

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Chris: Yes, we've two people already, but we're looking for more, full or part-time friendly and approachable people, preferably with a knowledge of the subject. Our contact details are on our website.

Howard: What are your plans to encourage footfall into the new shop?

Chris: We're going to host a series of open days from May 1st. The details are being finalised, but we're looking at between three and four days of hosting as we welcome everyone to the shop. A lot of people are behind us, from manufacturers to the press. It's a great feeling and a good position to find ourselves in.

Howard: A weekly newsletter from Hayley with a light-hearted fact or joke at the end keeps me up-to-speed with arrivals in your store – how important are these to website traffic?

Chris: Our newsletter is very important. It's amazing how many people want to meet Hayley at an exhibition. I always feel that the personal touch is important so that it doesn't look like it's computer-generated.

Howard: How will you deal with online orders?

Chris: The new shop won't deal with online orders - those will continue to be sent from our Cornish base. We send out most orders the day we receive them and it's surprising how many people are amazed when they receive an order the next day. Mail in Cornwall arrives at the same time as most of the rest of the UK - we're not that isolated!

Howard: Is this recent expansion a formula which can be duplicated? Are we looking at another ModelZone in a decade?

Chris: Hopefully not with the same ending! We're not looking for a rapid unsustainable expansion, and I feel that's where similar businesses have gone wrong in the past. We'll see how it goes - if it works, we'll perhaps look at other locations. Never say never...

Discover more about Kernow Model Rail Centre's new Guildford shop.



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