Sunderland furniture store urges support for local this Mother’s Day

24 February 2023

Mandy Brown took over furniture store Harrison & Brown in 2017 and said support for local this Mother’s Day and beyond will save small businesses

The owner of a popular local furniture store is taking part in a ‘mums love local’ campaign encouraging people to think local when they spoil their mum this Mother’s Day, supporting local businesses at the same time.

Mandy Brown is the owner of Harrison & Brown in Holmeside and said: “I worked for the previous owner of the store and when they moved to Florida I decided to take over the business and opened Harrison & Brown in October 2017, when I was 45. It was daunting because even though I’d been general manager of the previous store, it’s not the same as being an owner.

“The first year was scary and I got involved in everything, from painting the store to putting up pictures. I’m single, and obviously running the business on my own was lonely at times because there was no-one to be that sounding board for ideas. But I was very fortunate that my team stayed with the business, and I had good relationships with manufacturers.

“We have 6 floors and trade across 5 floors with our warehouse in the basement, selling everything from beds and wardrobes to tables, sofas and home accessories.

“In 2018 it was the Beast from the East, then we had the pandemic, which was very tough. Our demographic is a little older, and it took a while for customers to start coming back but loyalty really shone through. Shopping local means everything, it can mean the survival of businesses.

“Even though I’m in a big shop I’m still a small business. I had one customer who had heard our 5 floors of fabulous furniture advert and asked if I had a big mansion and a horse. I said ‘I’ve got a three bed semi and a little white fiesta’. Small business owners are just like everyone else, trying to make a living. We’re there at night turning off every plug.”

Harrison & Brown is one of almost 200 businesses who are part of the Sunderland Gift Card. Mandy says that support for local is needed as much as ever:

“In the current cost of living crisis, people are adjusting their lifestyles but still realise the importance of shopping local and supporting real people. To support local businesses on Mother’s Day, and for other occasions throughout the year, means the world. Shopping local has already saved so many businesses and continuing to shop local will save even more.

“My daughter moved to London when she was 21 and is now 28 but before she left for London, she actually ran the café in the store. Lots of mams don’t have their children right beside them on Mother’s Day but I know I’ll receive a nice card. I’ve got my mam living next door, so on Mother’s Day, I’ll be spending it with her.

“The pandemic taught us the value of spending time together and I think we value it much more, whether that’s meeting up for lunch or going to the cinema. And that’s what’s great about the Sunderland Gift Card. Rather than a particular gift card for a store, it can be used in lots of places in Sunderland. We get a lot of people that come into the store who’ve been given a Sunderland Gift Card as a present.

“I’m all about supporting the city and being a part of the Sunderland Gift Card helps us all to work together for the benefit of the city. Small businesses want to still be here next year, and we need local support for that.”

Sunderland BID launched the Sunderland Gift Card alongside Sunderland City Council in November 2020. Over £120,000 of gift cards have been sold to date.

Sharon Appleby is the Chief Executive of Sunderland BID and said: “With close to 200 businesses to spend the Sunderland Gift Card, it is a gift that every mum can appreciate and enjoy, whether it’s a product or an experience, time with family or time apart. Every £1 spent locally is £1 that goes towards ensuring the survival of our city businesses.”

Sunderland’s gift card is part of the award winning Town & City Gift Card initiative from Miconex active across the UK. Local gift cards giants Town & City Gift Cards are leading the national ‘mums love local’ campaign alongside Sunderland BID.

Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex: “This Mother’s Day, our ‘mums love local’ campaign is a chance for us to spoil our mums and also to celebrate the mums who are working hard to make a positive different in our local communities, employing local people and making our cities vibrant places to live, work and socialise.”