An American sweetshop firm is aiming for further expansion in 2014 after less than a year in business.
Ian Philpott took advantage of a gap in the market to open Yankee Doodle Candy in May 2012, after taking note of rising demand for US brands such as Oreos, Hersheys, Jelly Belly and Twinkies.
No shops specialised in their sale anywhere in the North East, yet during a research trip to London he discovered specialist sweetshops were commonplace, and successful.
Philpott took the plunge and opened up his first Yankee Doodle Candy shop at the Metrocentre in Gateshead, quickly followed by another outlet in Newcastle’s Eldon Square.
After seeing turnover in both stores steadily increase, the 33-year-old, from Castle Eden, is now in the market for other prime locations to expand, regionally and further afield. He has already identified Durham for a store, and more are planned.
He said: “I’ve always loved American sweets and could see demand for brands such as Oreos, Vanilla Coca Cola and Jelly Belly was really growing. They were becoming so popular and when I went to London and saw how readily available they were, it really got me thinking about the potential for opening that type of business in the North East. I felt there was a real gap in the market waiting to be filled.
“So I started developing a business plan and researching products, stockists and potential locations.
“I found the ideal premises at the Metrocentre but I was so cautious as I had no idea whether it would work so I initially committed to a year’s lease just in case. But at the same time I’ve always believed that if you’re going to do something, do it properly and I wanted the shop to look the business so I really invested in kitting it out in the best way possible so it was attractive to customers.
“And that paid off as it really took off and within months I opened a second store at Eldon Square.”
After initially opening the business and running it with his wife Leanne, Philpott now employs 20 people, including two apprentices, and he plans to double his workforce next year.
As well as actively looking for premises to open a third Yankee Doodle Candy shop in the region he is exploring the possibility of taking it nationally, possible as a franchise.
He sources all of his products from the US and earlier this year went across to the industry’s leading Expo event in Chicago to meet suppliers and see what new products were expected to be the next big thing.
Researching customer trends and listen to feedback has also been a priority, resulting in him stocking savoury brands.
The former Orange contact centre manager added: “It really has amazed me how successful Yankee Doodle Candy has been. Although I thought there was a gap for something like this, I didn’t expect growth to be so rapid.
“To start with Leanne and I were working round the clock and barely had a day off which was obviously tiring for us, especially as our daughter Olivia was only a baby at the time. But it was definitely worth it.
“The challenge for me now is to ensure that growth continues so I’m now looking at other suitable locations to expand the business. I’ve earmarked Durham as a potential but I’m keeping my options open.
“The main thing is I don’t rest on my laurels. I know who my competitors are and it’s down to me to ensure I stay ahead of them.”