The Realys New Store of the Year winner, pharmacist John Bell & Croyden, turned a tired outlet in London’s West End into a property that reflects its royal credentials.

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It is unusual for a one-off store to win the Realys New Store of the Year award. But there is very little that is common about John Bell & Croyden.

Having held a Royal Warrant since 1958, the pharmacist to the Queen has undergone a refurbishment befitting its regal credentials.

The retailer – owned by healthcare specialist Celesio UK, which also owns LloydsPharmacy – was honest about the work that needed doing.

In its entry, the company said the store on Wigmore Street, in London’s West End, was looking “tired and uninspiring”, and “did not reflect the brand’s rich heritage”. Post-refurb, that cannot be said any more.

“This is truly unique and the way it has done the redesign has been fantastic. I love the authority it has given the place”

The judges were full of compliments for the store, and not just for the aesthetics.

One judge pointed out that “pharmacy is a very difficult sector to bring alive with a really incredible experience, but John Bell & Croyden has done it”.

Another said: “This is truly unique and the way it has done the redesign has been fantastic. I love the authority it has given the place.”

So how has it been achieved? For a start, the pharmacist set out to modernise the layout and facilities to satisfy the “evolving healthcare needs” of its well-heeled shoppers.

John Bell & Croyden has been on the premises on London’s Wigmore Street since 1912, and the challenge was to maintain a sense of history while adding, in the retailer’s own words, a “modern twist to ensure an engaging experience for today’s patients and customers”.

Led by project manager Richard Leggett – working with Celesio designer Achim Neuss on the internal side, and design agency Twelve on the exterior – the team set about treading this fine line.

The task was to create something very special, but to also serve its particular demographic with a “welcoming, attractive environment people will want to visit and where managing their health will be a positive experience”.

A dramatic change

Changes include modern fittings, lighting and fixtures that support a range of new services and prepare for further technological innovations in the future.

There are some superb details, such as a replica car boot – a Jaguar XF, naturally – to test mobility scooters for size.

A central part of the project was to completely refurbish the basement of the store to provide more space for staff, and on the shopfloor internal walls were removed to expand the interior.

More space was given over for vitality health checks, increasing the number of people that can be seen and potentially boosting sales.

Aesthetically, everything has been brought more out into the open – the dispensary is lighter and brighter and more prominent, and improvements have been made to lighting and signage.

One of the judges said: “They’re doing something really bold and different that stands out. They’ve created something on a grand scale and brought a bit of theatre to pharmacy.”

Performing well

The work did not come cheap and it took nine months, during which time the store continued to trade. But when a historic building in central London is the project, corners cannot be cut.

The result is that like-for-like sales are up significantly since the store reopened and John Bell & Croyden has been showered with praise for the work.

The award recognises an excellent refurbishment of a prestigious retail name – Her Majesty would no doubt be pleased.

The Realys New Store of the Year – John Bell & Croyden

The Realys New Store of the Year – John Bell & Croyden

The Realys New Store of the Year – John Bell & Croyden

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