INDEPENDENT RETAIL AND LEISURE GROUP CONTINUES GROWTH PLANS

Leading Welsh family owned business, Leekes retail and leisure group, is accelerating its refurbishment and expansion plans, and with this creating an additional 50 new jobs, after securing a joint £28million funding package from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking and Barclays.

The 130 year old business operates both the Leekes Home Department Stores, located in South Wales, the West of England and the West Midlands, and the Vale Resort in Hensol. In recent years the retail business has embarked on a significant expansion drive with the purchase in 2008 of the West Midlands furniture group, Cole’s of Bilston, the opening of a flagship 185,000 sq m store in Coventry and the refurbishment of its Cross Hands store in Carmarthenshire.

Additionally, the prestigious Hensol Castle Park residential development, set in the grounds of the Vale Resort, has now been completed along with a significant room refurbishment at the star 144 bed Vale Hotel. The business, which is headquartered in Pontyclun, is using the funding to continue its store refurbishment plans and also to support the restoration of the 400-year old Hensol Castle at the Resort. Phase one, which is due to be completed imminently, sees the renovation of the reception rooms of the building and the creation of an unique function room in a new conservatory housed in the inner courtyard of the Castle.

The group-wide investment is set to create 50 new jobs across both divisions of the business, with the Leekes Group now employing around 1,200 people across its operations. Mike Fowler, Group Finance Director at the Leekes Group, said: “The business has achieved impressive growth in recent years as customer demand for quality home products increases, and we’re looking to build on this by both investing in our stores and also in looking at opportunities to expand our customer reach with the opening of more stores.

“The funding from Lloyds Bank and Barclays will help us achieve this part of our expansion plan, whilst also facilitating the refurbishment of Hensol Castle. Combining traditional conference facilities with the impressive setting of a stunning listed building will really boost our offering, and we’re looking forward to seeing the finished venue.”

Paul Williams, Relationship Director at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Leekes is a long established business that customers return to when they’re looking for quality furniture and bespoke design ideas, and we’re pleased to support it through its next chapter of growth. “The store refurbishment will really enhance the shopping experience for customers, whilst it’s clear that once completed Hensol Castle will offer guests a fantastic contemporary venue choice in an unrivalled location.”

Caroline Buckner, Relationship Director at Barclays, said: “Barclays is committed to using our industry expertise and specialists to support such propositions which are vital to a prosperous economy. By really understanding the business, Barclays has been able to provide innovative solutions to support Leekes both financially and professionally throughout this exciting expansion phase. This deal demonstrates our commitment to supporting Welsh businesses and highlights that large scale funding packages are readily available to the right propositions.”