Michael Cooke who is the owner of Melton Sports shop in King Street and the former editor of the Melton Times gives his thoughts about independent shops on our high streets as well as telling readers his plan to open on Sundays after Easter.
Q How have you found your change of career so far?
A Tough but exciting. I always knew running a retail business such as Melton Sports on today’s high street would be a challenge but that was precisely what I was looking for. It means you’re always engaged in the business and have to be creative and positive to make a go of it.
Q What skills being in journalism do you feel have helped you during your time in business ?
A Organisational and people skills. I’m always planning ahead and aim to build good relationships with customers, schools, sports clubs and suppliers. I should be quite good at marketing and promoting Melton Sports but I’m well aware I have to pick up many other skills quickly to run a successful business.
Q What are some of your plans for the shop in 2015?
A We are going to open on Sundays for a trial period from Easter and I’m looking forward to our first full cricket and tennis seasons. We’re devising some bespoke team wear for John Ferneley College and hope to work with more schools and clubs going forwards. We like to have the petrsonal touch..
Q How did you get involved in the Belvoir Castle Cricket & Countryside Trust?
A The charity provides sports and education opportunities for around 2,300 primary age and special needs children a year and was looking for a fundraiser with good local contacts so I guess I fitted the bill. It does great work and I hope I can help raise its profile.
Q Why was it sport you wanted to focus on?
A We’ve all got to lead healthier and more active lives and frankly I thought it was little short of a scandal that Melton hadn’t had a sports shop for seven or eight years. My wife, Lynne, came up with the catchphrase ‘for beginners to winners’ and that neatly sums up our approach.
Q What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent business in Melton?
A Melton has a fairly strong independent sector and we help each other. The Melton BID is also playing a key role in promoting the high street, our markets and food heritage. I also band together with other independent sports shops all over the country as part of a buying group which helps me to be competitive on price.
Q Do you think it’s a shame that we keep losing small independent shops from our high street such as Fern Mae’s Traditional Sweet Shop and what do you think could be done to try and prevent this from happening?
A Melton is holding its own and someone else will come through with a winning idea. The more that can be done to keep rent and rates down in the first couple of years to help new businesses get a foothold the better.
l Michael is also a trustee for the Romy Fund which is Melton’s children’s charity. For more information about the sports items he sells visit www.meltonsports.co.uk