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Lowestoft store made famous by Mary Portas puts building up for sale

Godfrey's department store has undergone many changes after being part of a TV show with Mary Portas.
Laura Willimot and her brother David Spooner inside the new look store.

Godfrey's department store has undergone many changes after being part of a TV show with Mary Portas. Laura Willimot and her brother David Spooner inside the new look store.

©Archant2015

One of Lowestoft's best-known department stores has put its premises up for sale just months after being given a revamp by retail guru Mary Portas - but has insisted it is staying in the town.

Godfreys says it planning to sell its current building for approximately £900,000 - and then pay £80,000 per year rent back to the new owners to stay in the Suffolk Road premises.

Store director Laura Willimot appealed to Miss Portas for help last year after reaching a “dire financial situation” which had seen Godfreys lose £380,000 in a single year.

After sending in her team of “secret shoppers” to assess where the family-run store was going wrong, Miss Portas’ remedy was to transform its furniture section to a home-lifestyle department to give the shop a more modern feel and improve its product range.

Revamping that section alone cost Godfreys - owned by Lowestoft businessman Jim Godfrey - thousands of pounds but had a huge benefit, helping to increase sales five per cent on the previous year.

It is already in the process of rolling that makeover out to the remainder of the store, but admits the change would cost money.

Mrs Willimot said selling the building “would allow us to get a lump sum of money to plough back into the business”.

She added: “It is such a clunky old building. The roof is terrible and is leaking.

“We want to release ourselves from the maintenance of the building so that we don’t have to worry about things like leaks.”

However she moved quickly to reassure customers - many of whom have reacted positively to the changes - that Godfreys would be here to stay.

“It is literally just the building up for sale,” she said.

“When people see the adverts they think the business is for sale but we really aren’t - we’re doing this for the good of the business.”

What do you think of Godfreys’ plans? Write, giving your full contact details, to: Journal Postbox, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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