Snapes of Cheadle Hulme was named Home Hardware South West Retailer of the Year for 2019. Home improvement industry consultant, Colin Petty takes a look at what’s helped this family firm stand the test of time and also stand out from the crowd.

F Family firm

Snapes was founded by current owner Craig Snape’s grandfather in 1936, in a corner shop in nearby Station Road. The Church Road shop was a competing hardware retailer, Cloughs, until Frank Clough decided to retire, and offered the business to Craig’s father Derek, by now running the business. It was a good offer, and turned out to be a timely one, since the Station Road lease expired shortly afterwards. Snapes moved into the Church Road shop in 1976, continuing to rent the premises from Frank Clough for some years until he offered them the freehold.

At that stage, it was still a small shop, about 400sq ft. Derek and Craig first incorporated the side passage into the shop to make more space, then in the late 1980s built over the open space at the rear to double the size. A second side passage was opened up, to create a separate sales area for cleaning products, and a further rear extension in the 1990s brought the total area up to around 3,000sq ft.

rom the outside, it looks

like a fairly

average hardware shop; a single unit in a secondary parade on Church Road,

in the pleasant residential area of Cheadle Hulme, close to Stockport. But that’s from the outside. Inside, it’s an impressive hardware and housewares business that goes back, and back, and back some more. And then there’s a door to a car park, and alongside the car park is an entirely separate two-storey building housing gardening, heating and seasonal lines. This is Snapes Home Hardware, winner of the Home Hardware South West Retailer of the Year award for 2019. And there’s nothing average about it at all.

“We’re in a village, so we try not to tread on other people’s toes”

The street door takes you straight into the cookshop and housewares, then to the main till, with cleaning products off to one side. Further back is light bulbs, tools, fixings and fastenings, security products and plumbing, and at the very back of the shop there’s a small range of paint and decorating products. “We decided 30 years ago not to go big on paint,” says Craig. “B&Q are very close by, and there’s a Johnstone’s decorator centre in Stockport – they do paint better than we ever could.” Behind the main store, the ‘Pavilion’ is a standalone 25-metre-long two- storey building which was erected two and half years ago. It’s clad in red cedar shingles, to soften its visual impact on the neighbourhood. “Built in brick, it would have looked like the Berlin wall,” says Craig. The ground floor is a showroom

Snapes was awarded Home

Hardware South West Retailer of the Year in 2019


for gardening, heating and seasonal lines, with a goods inward space at the far end; the upstairs is currently used for storage and office space, but there are plans to use it as a garden furniture showroom. What prompted the decision to join Home Hardware? “Well, they had

been after me for years, but I always resisted,” says Craig. “Then our main wholesaler told me one day that Uhu glue and Chemico paste had been discontinued – and I looked in the Home Hardware catalogue, and there was Uhu glue and Chemico paste. And I found that they were happy to split packs, so I didn’t have to take a dozen. We went in with our eyes open – our view was that it would work for us if we wanted it to.” He’s a fan of the Home Hardware

promotions too: “We take them all, and send out 20,000 leaflets. It’s getting our name out there on the doormats, and all the promotions work – especially when the weather is kind to us.”

Stock policy

The Snapes stock policy is a simple one: order ‘little and often’, and use the wholesaler as the stockroom. “As soon as we reach the carriage paid value, we send the order,” says Craig. “And Home Hardware South West delivers promptly and frequently, providing the vast majority of what Snapes sells.” There are product areas where he

won’t go: “We’re in a village, so we try not to tread on other people’s toes,” he says. “We’ve never had a key cutting machine, because the cobbler down the road cuts keys, and there’s a lighting showroom over the road, so we don’t do light fixtures. But we do sell a full range of light bulbs – and he doesn’t.” He has a robust attitude to pricing, “Back in 1994

too: an electrical

wholesaler told us we should be selling

the new Dyson vacuum

cleaner – it was retailing at £200, and they said they were selling hundreds. We took it in, priced it at £179.99 – and sold more than a thousand of them! Then other retailers complained about our price, so we checked with the Office of Fair Trading, and they said ‘as long as you’re making a profit – even one penny – we’re happy.’ So we carried on.” Craig joined the family firm full- time in 1976. His father Derek, now 92, gave up working in the shop about five years ago, but still does some of the accounts. Craig’s son Adam started as a Saturday boy at the age of 14, then went to work for his uncle’s estate agency for a while before coming back to the hardware business, and he has been full-time for seven years now. Ryan Moffatt completes the management team. “He came to us as a part-timer, and within two weeks he knew all the stock, and knew all the prices,” says Craig. They are assisted at various times by Craig’s wife Cheryl and daughter Emily, plus Angela, Debra, Debs (the longest-serving member of the team, with 16 years), Elaine and Heather, with Gideon and Nina coming in on Saturdays.

The shop is open from 9am to 5.30pm on Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 4pm on Sunday. There’s a strong feeling of community about it, with customers addressing the staff by name: “Morning Craig, have you got such-and-such?” And the community spirit extends

to the

car park, which is shared with the restaurant next door – in theory each business has half of the 16 or so spaces. “But they are closed during the day, and we’re closed at night, so it works out very well.”

Independent advice Finally, what advice would Craig give to an independent retailer who was thinking about joining Home Hardware? “Definitely go for it! The minimum order is low, they have vast stock, we can buy things in singles, and the regularity of deliveries means we’re never out of stock on anything for long. Basically, it’s up to us to make it work – and we do.”

For more details about Snape & Sons, visit their website at

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