St Ives shop owner Rob Dumont on starting a niche business
- Credit: Archant
Opening a niche shop can be a daunting prospect, but Rob Dumont of recently-opened Skaters is taking the experience in his stride. Business reporter Hywel Barrett talks to the St Ives shop owner about his first months in business.
In mid-March the Free Church Passage in St Ives was filled with scooters, skateboards and BMX bikes as a new shop opened its doors for the first time.
Despite not having any retail experience to his name, Rob Dumont opened Skaters – a one-stop shop for scooters, skateboards and skates. As well as selling parts and whole products, Mr Dumont services, builds and repairs items.
The store is another chapter in Mr Dumont’s working life which has seen him take voluntary redundancy from designing hotel and restaurant logos, menus and leaflets, work in plumbing, where he was left in traction after a back injury, and then work in a sheet metal factory to save money to open his shop.
“I have been skating for more than 30 years and the problem with the internet is that you can’t guarantee that what you will get is the genuine article or whether it will fit,” he said.
“There aren’t many skate shops around these days. There is one in Bournemouth that I used to go to on summer holidays as a child and I took my son there last year, and it’s still going after 30 years. I asked the owner there for some suppliers and it started from there.”
He added: “It took a while to find a shop in St Ives, there are a few that have been empty for some time but when I asked about them, I was told that a national chain showed some interest so I would have to wait.
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“I then found this place, which is owned by Graham Handley Architects, and it’s great as I lease directly from the owner. It used to be a clothes shop with horrible shelves everywhere with a yellow and green paint scheme, so the first thing I had to do was get rid of those and fill in the holes and repaint it.”
Mr Dumont, 39, sourced everything locally to get his store up and running, mainly from St Ives Industrial Estate, and his ingenuity has meant his counter is made from kitchen counters from Howdens, and glass cut into MDF.
Before he started, Mr Dumont, who has lived in St Ives all of his life, had to go on workshops to learn to build scooters from scratch and has now got it down to a fine art and can produce a custom-chosen scooter in half an hour.
By March, he was ready to open.
“The first day, the shop was packed with kids. In the lead up to opening I started a Facebook page and kept updating it with every stage until I opened so it got a big gathering there,” Mr Dumont told The Hunts Post.
“Mainly my customers are kids, but there are a few more older people, more my age, that are taking up skating again. Because there aren’t many skate shops around, I get customers from Huntingdon, Cambridge and Peterborough as well as other places. During the week I get parents who come in and ask whether what their child has said is correct or not. Usually it isn’t, so I tell them what they should get instead.
“I don’t have to compete with the internet as my prices are the same as online and people don’t pay for delivery. If they have a problem then they can return items easily or get it sorted out.
“I have a good supplier which means if I don’t have something in stock, I can generally get it within 48 hours. I had one customer who wanted wheels for figure skating, but my supplier didn’t produce them so I had to look for them. In the end I got them delivered from Italy.
“It’s going really well and it’s growing week by week as word spreads.”
In addition to the shop, Mr Dumont also helps teach children how to skate at the One Leisure centre and at skating events in the town.