Winter weather proved perfect storm for store

Complete Outdoors, Hemel Hempstead
Complete Outdoors, Hemel Hempstead
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Make hay while the sun shines, or the snow falls? Either way, Jonathan Shirley keeps smiling, writes Alan Candy.

The owner of the Complete Outdoors store at London Road, Bourne End, found himself suddenly inundated with a surge of customers wanting to stock up for the outdoor life as the white stuff descended.

Jonathan Shirley of Complete Outdoors, Hemel Hempstead

Jonathan Shirley of Complete Outdoors, Hemel Hempstead

He said: “I think in these recessionary times I’m almost feeling guilty about enjoying the winter weather. This is the perfect storm for us.”

Jonathan, 60, sold a remarkable 24 sledges in 24 hours at one stage as families clamoured for the downhill racers, and there has also been sudden heavy demand for other seasonal products such as waterpoof gloves, hand warmers and Dr Zhivago-style faux fur hats.

“Snow in winter and lots of sunshine in summer and we’re happy,” said Jonathan. “There is a very small window of opportunity with sledges – people see snow forecast and then come straight to the shop. It’s a very cyclical business and the weather must be in our favour, as last year we beat our sales figures for 2011. But we live in difficult times and people want to spend their money carefully.”

Complete Outdoors was established in 1996 and employs six staff at the Bourne End store, with a further 10 workers at the parallel internet operation at Tring.

“We’re a 50/50 split – the classic ‘brick and click’ business,” said Jonathan.

Much of the store’s trade comes from youngsters taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, stocking up with items such as rucksacks, hiking boots and waterproof jackets.

Now it’s roll on summer for Jonathan, when customers looking for sun hats and camping gear will start beating a path to his door.