Norwich’s iconic department store, Jarrolds, is staying relevant while celebrating its heritage 

Jarrolds is a unique, independent department store located in the heart of Norwich, UK, an ancient city steeped in history. Once the prominent center of East Anglian trade, Norwich is now regarded as ‘the city of stories,’ reflecting the commitment to championing local people, communities, and businesses.

Founded in 1770 in Woodbridge and moving to Norwich 200 years ago, Jarrolds has played a key role in Norwich’s history, occupying a prominent location within the medieval city, and becoming an iconic destination for the shoppers of Norfolk. Despite its position in the UK’s most complete medieval city, Jarrolds is far from an aging scene and has instead evolved to stay fresh and relevant amidst the UK high street’s turmoil.

Judith Finney, Deli Buyer/Manager

“We try as often as possible to think like a 250-year-old startup, constantly reinventing and revolutionizing ourselves to maintain relevance and customer centricity,” begins Nick Steven-Jones, Group CEO. “We’ve expanded not only in terms of our retail offering but into divisions, with a training business, property division, and facilities management company that has evolved over the last 20 years from the St James’ Place development in Whitefriars.”

Talking about retail specifically, Nick continues: “In a post-pandemic world, people are looking for an experience when it comes to retail. While online shopping clearly offers convenience, customers are demonstrating a renewed desire to touch, smell, and feel products. Particularly in a challenging era for the high street, it’s all about experience.

“We want people to think of Jarrolds as a place to go when you don’t know exactly what you want, when you want to be inspired, or when you want a more luxurious retail experience. We aim to sell curated collections and products that you can’t get anywhere else. The team has taken a different approach to merchandising, so instead of being brand specific, our displays are made up of a range of products to emulate looks and feels that attract customers.

“This concept extends beyond retail too. In our training division, for example, people come to us not just for a training course, but for bespoke, tailored schemes that resonate across the group and monitor individual progress.

“We’ve taken some bold decisions over the last couple of years to differentiate our offering, such as more than doubling the size of our wine bar and deli in 2022. It was slightly risky – would there be demand for a glass of wine while shopping? We’ve found that there certainly is!”

With a handful of celebrations underway to commemorate Jarrolds’ 200th year in Norwich, the business has rebranded, adding an ‘s’ to its former name, Jarrold. “The conversation around the brand predates my joining in 2022,” Nick informs us. “Our 200th year in Norwich provided a great opportunity for us to reflect on our history, as well as our aims for the future.

“Although we were keen to stay true to the origins of the brand and embrace its heritage, we wanted to bring a modern refreshment to the font and logo in preparation for the third century of our retail existence. The addition of the ‘s’ encompasses not only the customers that frequent our store, but also the colleagues that deliver excellence, our diverse suppliers, and the wider community.”

As Nick alludes to, Jarrolds is passionate about supporting the local community, including Norwich’s plethora of small businesses and local production sites. “There’s a symbiotic relationship between us and our local suppliers, which provides a great opportunity for us to diversify,” Nick explains. “Our mission statement is to be the destination of choice for Norfolk, but to be a window of Norfolk to the rest of the country.

“Norwich’s food and beverage scene is a hive of activity for cutting-edge, up-and-coming products, with North Norfolk being the home to a wide range of manufacturing operations. We’re not only champions of Norfolk’s produce, but also its local retailing and manufacturing offering. We run an initiative called ‘Store Folk,’ for example, which provides physical opportunities for businesses to sell in store on a week-to-week rental basis, as well as online through our website.”

On the topic of Jarrolds’ website, Nick reflects: “Our ecommerce offering has grown from almost nothing in 2019 to now accounting for around ten percent of our revenue. To cater to this growing area, we’re planning to double the size of our current warehouse, which will enable us to stock more furniture, as well as strengthening our deli and hamper business.

“We’re also looking at our supply chain, not least from our own perspective but with the aim of further expanding our services to other businesses. At present, we deal with everything to do with the product up until final mile delivery, which is handed over to an external party. However, we’re working with several partners and we’re currently in the process of acquiring a logistics company to enable us to look after our own delivery and fulfilment.

“This will not only see us take complete ownership of our supply chain from the sourcing of products right through to delivery but unlocks our ability to champion local businesses by offering them something similar. Across our divisions, we’d then be able to offer other businesses the full range of Jarrolds services from office space, facilities management, and maintenance, through to warehousing, ecommerce, fulfilment, and logistics.”

With this in mind, it is clear that the business is committed to retaining its centrality in the local community. “As we look forward into our third century, we want to consolidate the success of the rebrand, continue championing Norfolk, and help other local businesses excel,” Nick concludes. “Our London Street store will continue to evolve, staying relevant to retail trends and offering unique, carefully selected products that showcase and champion the best of Norfolk.”