Snap up a success in Cirencester

PUBLISHED: 12:18 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:51 20 February 2013



Peter and Celia stringfellow are retiring and they are selling the toy shop Crocodile that they have built up over the last 22 years. Phillip Timson thinks it is a sensible time to reapp the rewards.

Toy Story

One Gloucestershire business recently been put on the market is Cirencester-based Crocodile, one of the Cotswold's most well-known toyshops, owned by Peter and Celia Stringfellow.

This successful business, based in The Woolmarket just off the marketplace in the town, was started by the Stringfellows when they moved from Devon 22 years ago.

Peter says: "I was a surveyor by trade and Celia a school teacher. Neither of us knew anything about retailing - or much about toys for that matter. What we did know was that we wanted to run our own business, so we started looking for somewhere new to live and something fresh to do."

They settled on a toyshop for no reason other than everyone loves toys, and moved to Cirencester because it was, and remains, affluent and attractive.

"We wanted to sell quality toys to people who appreciated them, and we've stuck by that commitment for more than two decades," says Peter.

Quality doesn't necessarily mean expensive, and the shop sells goods from 99p to 999. "We have our much-loved 'bad taste' department where children can buy power balls, or squigy aliens who's eyes pop out when you squeeze them," adds Celia.

After years of building up the business, expanding and developing the stock, Peter and Celia are now planning to retire. "This was a huge decision for us to make," explains Peter. "In one way, Crocodile is as much our baby as our now grown-up son was."

According to Philip Timson, The Stringfellows have chosen a sensible time to put their business on the market.

"The business is sound; retail space in The Woolmarket is growing and a number of national upmarket fashion brands have moved into the town over the last year," he said. "All this increases footfall and is likely to benefit all retailers in the town."

There is also significant investment happening in Cirencester as the town centre benefits from private redevelopment and St James Place, one of the UK's leading wealth management businesses, will move into stunning new headquarters in the town later this year.

According to research published in June this year by Verdict, a leading authority on UK and European Retail markets, the town centre remains the most important channel in the UK retail, worth 124.2bn in 2006, and accounts for nearly half of all UK retail expenditure.

"Some retailers have had a difficult time over the last few years," says Philip. "But niche retailing of quality products in established and affluent areas can still be successful, which is why businesses such as Crocodile continue to flourish.

"Peter and Celia Stringfellow have built up a recognisable brand and prepared their business properly for sale. Relinquishing their business will be difficult for them, but a great opportunity for the right buyer."

For more information on how Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services can help your business, visit the GEBS website on, or call 01242 864200 and speak to Emily or Georgina.

Selling up

Selling a business can be as stressful as setting it up in the first place. You've spent decades building up the business, hot-housing it at the beginning when every small decision was fraught with issues. Then come the years when you rediscover your home life, and thanks to all your hard work, the business can tick along happily without you for a while.

But nothing lasts for ever and more importantly, nor do most people want it to. If you've set up your business right and it can run without you at the helm, then you've got something of true value to sell and reap the rewards.

For many business owners, selling their business can be an emotional wrench, according to Philip Timson, director at Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services (GEBS) which provides a range of support services and programmes to help small businesses in the county.

"If you've spent years building up your business, don't expect it to be easy letting go," he advises.

Of course, the potential financial reward will often make up for leaving it all behind, but unless you prepare your sale properly, you might either undersell the business, or not sell it at all.

Philip recommends planning your strategy: "Assemble all the financial information which a prospective purchaser is likely to ask for," he says. "And make sure it is robust enough to stand up to detailed scrutiny."

It's also sensible to sell your business when the order books are healthy and the business looks smart and prosperous.

"The most important thing to remember, when selling your business for profit, is to keep it running effectively and efficiently," adds Philip. "No-one wants to pay for a business which looks tired. Keep the business and your staff, smart, motivated and keen."

Don't over or undervalue the business. Assess its real worth with your financial advisers and research other, similar, businesses to pitch your price right.

When you have prepared the business for sale, strong marketing will widen the prospective pool of purchasers.

Consider the confidentiality of the sale. Prospective purchasers will want as much financial detail about the business as you'll give them, but make sure they sign confidentiality agreements stopping them discussing your business with others.

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