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The story behind our stores

In March 2012 we opened our first store – Neptune Winchester. We’ve come such a long way since then, opening a further 24 stores in the UK and across the channel, with several more on our horizon for this year alone. But our approach to how we build and how we design hasn’t really changed at all. We might have learnt things along the way, but our ethos remains unchanged, and our vision for our stores has always been the same – to create places that look more like homes rather than stores, to create places that you’ll want to come back to, even if it’s just to say a quick hello, and perhaps most importantly, to create places where you’ll feel perfectly at home from the moment you close our front door behind you.
Every Neptune store has its own story.

No two buildings are ever remotely the same in terms of their history. Some might have been former public houses – Neptune Chester used to be The Nag’s Head, Neptune York was The Tanglewood, and Neptune Farnham was The Wellington. Some were historic buildings of some sort – Neptune Reading was a 17th century gate lodge called Monksmead House, Neptune Hailsham served as a terminal for the long-gone (and sweetly-named) Cuckoo Line railway, and just-opened Neptune Belfast was once the home of the largest independent bakery in Ireland. Others, might be former warehouses, barns or retail spaces that we’ve renovated entirely and brought back to life, like Neptune Canterbury, Weybridge and Wimbledon

What our stores almost always have in common is that they’re buildings that have been unloved for a long time, and sadly they’re sometimes in a state of disrepair and even ruin. 

It can take a very, very long time to find the right place for us to move into, but when we do, one of the key things to say about our build approach is that we work with the building. We respect its history. If there are original features, we celebrate them. If it’s listed, we respect that and do much to ensure its long term health such as re-pointing stonework and putting in the right windows as they typically need them. If there are things that the building needs to fulfil its potential, we don’t skirt around that. We fundamentally don’t believe in taking shortcuts, we are happy to go back to the drawing board and start afresh. We do things properly, carefully and thoroughly so the building is restored to its former glory, or in some cases, it’s a case of letting it reach a potential that it never had the chance to before,” explains Tim Buxton, head of property at Neptune.
We’re currently working on a project on a soon-to-be-announced store opening that we really have developed entirely from scratch. We’re yet to open a store that has involved completely demolishing the former building and building completely new, but it was in such shocking condition. The fabric of the building was cheap, there was no insulation, there were seven different levels on just one floor – it was a bit of a disaster, but the location and surroundings were perfect 

for us. So, we applied for permission to convert it into a retail space and then again for demolition. We’ve had both granted and are now incredibly excited to be working on the transformation.
Building a Neptune store is far from solely about architecture, bricks and mortar. There’s the interior – this has a huge role to play in turning it into a home and for presenting our brand, our values, and our collections. Our team of store designers and visual merchandisers are responsible for this aspect of the project. They work alongside our build team to create, dress, fill and style hallways, living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and gardens (if there’s the space) in our signature aesthetic of calmness, elegance and timelessness.
There’s also our retail team who work in that particular store – they’re equally as crucial in making our stores feel like homes. It’s no use creating a space that looks lovely and is constructed expertly if it’s filled with people who don’t reflect who we are and what we stand for. Our hiring process is something that we take our time with, finding exactly the right people to make any guests feel like they’re being welcomed by an old friend every time they stop by.

“We always consult our neighbours when we’re looking at coming to a new area,”

And then there’s our neighbours – who we want to be sure feel respected and considered from day one. “We always consult our neighbours when we’re looking at coming to a new area,” Tim continued. “It’s part of the planning process, but we’d always do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. We speak to the local parish, local business groups, and a number of people who live not too far away. I can honestly say we’ve never had an altercation or an objection once we’ve explained our approach and they can see how we’re going to lift a building that’s been neglected. They also always seem to appreciate how we try to source materials from the local area as much as we can, such as our shingle, brick, roofing material and stone, to reflect the local vernacular. We’re always welcomed with open arms, which is lovely and just makes the process so much easier, and happier.
One of the things we do often encounter ‘difficulties’ with though is location. Much like with moving house, the age-old quandary of  location

versus the building’s potential is such a hard balance to strike. A compromise has to be made somewhere, but it’s incredibly hard to do that, no matter how much practice we have at doing it. 
We don’t really have a stand-out criteria when selecting stores,“ Tim continued. “Sometimes it might be that the location is so absolutely spot-on, that we have to think how we can design-out any concerns we have with the building. Other times, we can’t believe our fortune with an amazing building we’ve found that we can’t let it pass us by and we have to hope that people are happy to travel a little further to visit us. It’s a case of give and take. When we do decide on a property though, we will always try to secure the freehold. Our stores are long-term investments for us. More than 60% of our stores are freehold. When they’re not, such as our London locations, it’s because it’s fundamentally not available so we have to accept a leasehold.

With everything we do, we believe in doing the right thing and in doing things properly. Our stores are one of the strongest declarations of that belief. Like we said at the beginning of this article, they’re more than stores, they’re homes. More than that, they’re our forever homes. 

A home from home

We have stores as far north as York and as far south as Bournemouth, as well as several overseas. Find your closest
one and come make yourself at home.