Moving to a new flagship store in Mercer Walk in London’s Covent Garden and the £700,000 investment drive currently underway are set to increase profitability for the 166-year-old business.
Through its five locations, which include a second store in Bristol, a web hub and business division, it is seeing sales of over £6million.
Its ecommerce side is performing especially strongly, recording 20 per cent growth in digital mapping services and charting products.
A loan note issue, £3,000 units at five per cent for three years, was chosen as the form of borrowing. The offer, still open, is being made to Stanfords’ 72 shareholders and other experienced investors.
It was selected “because it was the least expensive and complicated way to raise funds”, says chief executive and chairwoman Vivien Godfrey who oversees a team of 55 and whose own Stanfords’ connections span three generations.
“This is all about right sizing and striking a balance between bricks and mortar and online. Research has shown we are a destination retailer so customers come to us specifically after they have perhaps browsed on line and like to linger so now we have a café too,” she adds.
“The lower overheads we will achieve with the move make me wish we had done it a decade ago.”
Stanfords’ iconic status among those with itchy feet hardly needed securing.
But it’s survival, in the face of an online onslaught and rising rents and rates, and now its multi-channel success are also proof that print is irreplaceable.
“There will always be a place for maps, especially for longer journeys. They are reliable and you get a proper sense of perspective, your journey becomes an exploration, not a mechanical process,” says Stanfords map maker Martin Greenaway whose favourite is Stanfords Library Map of the World, “a thing of beauty” embellished with trade winds and oceans currents.
Tighter international maritime rules have increased orders for on-demand charts with the latest updates which Stanfords now supplies in a variety of paper and sizes.
Quirky queries are its speciality so should you want a map detailing all the railways of France, say, this is the go-to place.
“But some customers do not realise the huge number of choices that they have available,” says Godrey.
“Explaining that can be time consuming discussing the pros and cons.
“But this is part of our usp – great service from experts and great product choice and availability.”
Peak sales times are Christmas for globes and for maps Spring – the season as Chaucer memorably noted when “folk long to go on pilgrimages’.
Florence Nightingale and Captain Scott are among many famous customers past and present, and it was Stanfords that Sherlock Holmes turned to when he needed a map to help him navigate perils in The Hound of the Baskervilles.
These days Amazon is a customer.
The much-loved map floor decoration will continue in its new London home, only now it can be varied too.
More shops are planned. “With us,” says Godfrey “you can make the leap from traveller to explorer”. www.stanfords.co.uk.