Guernsey’s retail industry is in good shape and faces a bright future if some of the proposed developments and opportunities are realised over the next few years, says a local jeweller.
Martin Search (pictured), owner of and partner at Ray & Scott on The Bridge, has just chalked up 50 years in business and seen a myriad of changes in the industry along the way. He believes that the Island has long outperformed the UK through its eclectic and specialist mix of stores, local expertise and entrepreneurial spirit and is well positioned to meet the needs of future consumers if retail continues to develop.
Martin said: “We have just come out of an encouraging festive period for retail and I have always maintained that the Island seems to adapt really well to challenges and opportunities. This includes everything from the halcyon days of British Rail mailboats bringing over thousands of holidaymakers, through technology changes from cash to smart pay, increased competition from the internet and more recently, from Brexit and the pandemic.
“The variety of specialist and niche local businesses could not be sustained elsewhere, as the growth of out of town retail parks in the UK and obviously the internet has seriously impacted town centres.
“We don’t see this in Guernsey due to our physical size and our architecture where we have limited scope for purpose built stores, but also because of the expertise and high degree of entrepreneurialism which exists here.”
Martin is also a director of the Guernsey Retail Group which was formed to support the industry through maintaining its profile, working with existing and new retailers to expand or set up and promoting the sector as a career choice for Islanders.
Looking ahead, Martin is positive for the sector in general and has high aspirations.
He added: “I believe that we are on the crest of a wave and in a good place. Our opportunities lie in retail tourism – where people travel to a certain destination primarily to shop and take advantage of the local retail environment – the rolling out of a Retail Strategy for the whole Island, Leale’s Yard coming on stream, Home Bargains being established on the old Quayside site and other developments.
“I also see the internet as something to embrace and would like a retail website established for Guernsey, not just for individual businesses. It is a radical idea but would showcase the variety, quality and value for money available here and I feel would work.”
Martin began his career as a 17 year old working on Saturdays, holding down two jobs for a while, in retail and in hospitality, prior to settling into this trade. He took relevant qualifications and courses in the UK and Switzerland in gemmology, jewellery and retail before eventually building Ray & Scott into a successful business.
“As for my time in the industry, I would not have changed my career path at all. The interaction with clients, friendships made and the feel good factor alongside the development of a community business could not be replicated,” Martin added.