The Natural World is to increase the proportion of own-branded product in its stores to nearly 50 per cent in preparation for the possible launch of franchise and mail order operations.
Managing director Andrew Thomas brought pack and window design in house last year to increase the uniformity of the brand, but at present only about 15 per cent of the range is own-label. 'We are very keen to build a brand,' he said. The proportion will be increased to almost half over the next three years.
Thomas said the change would enable the business to move into franchising abroad and establish a mail order business. 'We have a lot of requests for mail order and franchises, particularly from abroad, but we have got to be more own-branded first,' he said.
In the UK, Thomas is to continue expanding the 30-store chain and has identified up to 90 towns and cities where it could open. He said The Natural World was also considering taking space in central London. 'We could have about 10 stores there,' he said.
The store group is also working with Middlesex University to produce a range of educational kits. 'It's a range of children's self-assembly kits based on scientific principles, such as the camera obscura,' said Thomas. The new range will be in shops by Christmas.
Natural World sells a range of nature-inspired gifts and educational products, from telescopes and fossils to bird-houses.
- Profile: page 12.