In June, the company’s larger-than-life founder Chris Dawson appeared on the first of the Peter Jones Meets series of business programmes, as the Dragon looked to find out what makes entrepreneurs tick.
The Range, headquartered in Plymouth, is certainly a business that warrants attention. In March this year Dawson told Insider that it is looking to open its first overseas stores. The company, which trades from 70 stores across the UK, is looking to break into the European market.
“We’re targeting anywhere we can make money,” said Dawson. “We’ll be looking at all parts of Europe and getting to learn about the area. It’s important that you don’t think your brand will work anywhere. We need to wrap our brand around the community, not the other way round.”
Dawson said the retailer was looking to expand internationally as it has enjoyed steady growth in the UK but was determined not to take his “foot of the gas”. He added the business has expanded at a time when many other retailers are struggling.
“It’s what we do and how we do it,” said Dawson. “I know it’s very tough out there and every other household name is disappearing, which is all bad news. But I only get paid to look after [The Range], I don’t get paid to look after them, so it’ll be just 110 per cent focus for us, with 150 per cent effort and 200 per cent return.”
The Range was founded by Dawson, originally as a market stall, in 1980. The company, which was known as CDS Superstores, opened its first superstore at the Sugar Mill Business Park in Plymouth in 1989. Dawson has now bought the business park where The Range opened its first store. There are 25 businesses at the site.
The Range expects to report sales of £400m this year, but as Dawson (personally worth an estimated £585m) told Jones, he intends to more than double that. He said: “That’s just the warm-up act. I’ve got to get to £1bn turnover. That’s the target. It won’t be tomorrow but it won’t be long.”
Other deals include his negotiation to buy almost £70m of stock from the administrators of MFI for less than £3m. The Range bought £68m worth of stock in early 2009 when MFI collapsed. The deal – dubbed the “biggest furniture purchase in history” – included kitchens and bathrooms and was said to have filled 2,400 articulated lorries.
But details of the purchase were kept under wraps until the Jones documentary. Dawson, who said he negotiated while sitting in a deck chair in Barbados, revealed: “We told the press at the time that we has amazing competition [for the stock]. There wasn’t. We got the press out first. The names I think we made up. The press, bless ‘em, printed it.”
Dawson said the move ensured there was “no competition” for the stock and meant The Range was the sole bidder.
When pushed by Jones on how much he paid, Dawson revealed: “If I’d have paid £9m you’d have thought I was a star. If I’d have paid £8m you’d have thought ‘this boy’s nicked it’. Had I paid £6m you’d have thought ‘he’s telling lies’. Had I paid £5m you would have thought I’d been drinking. I got change out of £3m. We made a hell of a lot of money; a hell of a lot.”
In late 2012, the retailer announced plans to open a new Yorkshire distribution centre in a facility once occupied by MFI.