Chris Dawson buys Plymouth retail park and vows to rename it
MEGA bucks retail magnate Chris Dawson has bought the huge Sugar Mill Retail Park out of administration for a knock-down price and intends to rename it "Dawson Mill".
The Range chain entrepreneur said he won't raise the rent for any of the 25 tenant businesses, redevelop the land, or sell it on.
The Bargain King did the deal, he said, because the Billacombe Road site is the birthplace of his retail empire, and still anchored by what was his first superstore, opened in 1989.
And also, he said, because he couldn't resist what he calls a "Dawson deal", in other words: a bargain.
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He said his CDS Group secured the 140,000sq ft retail park for an undisclosed cash sum, which was much less than the £5.25million asking price.
The park was part of the portfolio of Plymouth property mogul Mike Hockin's London & Westcountry Estates, which went into administration a year ago. Administrators at professional services giant Ernst & Young have been selling off the London & Westcountry Estates portfolio.
Mr Dawson said: "Sugar Mill is pretty special to me being the first site, so getting it is a big personal triumph. It will now be called Dawson Mill.
"It won't be developed, it will stay as it is. And all the businesses there will feel happier. When it was in administration they didn't know what was going to happen, so it's good news for the tenants."
Among businesses operating at the park are a schoolwear retailer, a carpet store, a scaffolding firm and a garage. Mr Dawson said the site would remain "business as usual" and that he would "make a profit, a good profit, from day one" without having to hike rents.
Mr Dawson, worth a cool £380million according to last year's Sunday Times Rich List, has seen his retail empire balloon in recent years.
He opened his 70th The Range store last week, and expects to have 90 by the end of the year.
He said his businesses, which also include a shop-fitting branch and a design operation, has seen turnover surpass £500,000,000 (half a billion).
"The value of the company has skyrocketed," he said. "Since the last valuation we have opened 30 stores."
Mr Dawson's retail business alone now employs about 5,000 people, which he expects to increase by 2,500 this year.
And he continues to invest, with a huge distribution centre, "so big you can see it from space", opening recently near Doncaster, and plans to move 300 staff from his Estover HQ into another building in Plymouth this year.
Next on the agenda is expansion into Scotland, where The Range opens a huge Glasgow branch soon, and then Europe.
"We have a site south of Paris," he said. "We are looking throughout Europe for opportunities.
"It's been terrible times out there, with bank lending and this and that," he added. "But we have managed to turn in great results. That's not luck. It happens because we make it happen. I can see about 120 stores in the pipeline. There's plenty going on all the time."