It’s been a rollercoaster year for the four retailers we selected in February as Ones to Watch. Here we catch up with them for the final time this year. Sadly, Love Saves the Day has gone into receivership, but its owners are determined to fight on. FishWorks is reaping the rewards of floating on the AIM stock exchange, while Out of This World is benefiting from consumers’ desire to know more about the food they eat and Off the Vine is consolidating after a turbulent year. Ronan Hegarty looks at the joys and perils of running a small business

>>EST 1997
TYPE OF OPERATION: Fishmonger/restaurant
BASED: West Country/London
OWNERS: Roy Morris and Mitchell Tonks
FishWorks is on a mission to bring the fishmonger back to the high street and, according to chief executive Roy Morris, it is well on the way to achieving its goal.
The chain of fishmongers/ restaurants that was set up in Bath in 1997 has made a huge leap forward this year by floating on the AIM stock exchange, a necessary step in raising the capital needed for its bold expansion plans.
After floating in May, FishWorks announced that it planned to grow from five outlets to 19 during the next five years. In July it opened its sixth premises as a fishmonger and seafood bar in Harvey Nichols’ flagship Knightsbridge store. This was swiftly followed later in July by number seven in Islington, north London.
Now Morris says that FishWorks is still looking around London for new sites but is keen to move the brand to other provincial towns. “There are plenty of towns throughout the country that would be suitable for our style of operation. The proof of this comes from our original store in Bath, which had its most successful month ever in June. As with our current sites, the key is finding the right location,” he says.
For FishWorks, this means affluent areas where people can afford to spend time and money searching out quality produce. If the expansion plans are to become a reality then FishWorks must hit the ground running in 2006.
Morris says he and the team are ready for the challenge. “We are on track to open four stores a year for the next few years. We intend to open two new sites early next year, one in Richmond, and should add two more by the end of July.”

Love Saves the Day
>>EST 1999
TYPE OF OPERATION: Café bar/wine merchant/grocer
BASED: Manchester
OWNERS: Becky and Chris Joyce
Unfortunately, Love Saves the Day has run into serious financial trouble and has been forced to shut up shop.
The news came as a shock because when The Grocer last talked to co-owner Beckie Joyce in June, the company was reaping the rewards of moving its original store to larger premises. Joyce was celebrating a 30% growth in sales in the four months since opening in February.
Having settled into the new premises, Joyce was also talking confidently about expanding the operation to four stores with the roll-out of two new franchise outlets.
However, Beckie and her husband Chris are refusing to throw in the towel and are already looking at ways of keeping the business going.
The original company has been dissolved but the couple has bought the trading name Love Saves the Day and has just started trading again as an online delivery service.
Through its web site, it will offer a range of own label wine, coffee and olive oils. The key, says Joyce, is trying to keep its loyal customers happy during this difficult period.
She explains: “The web site means we can begin to get back to what we love doing best - making sure our customers can get great coffee, wine and food. We are now looking at what we can do to make sure we also have a bricks and mortar presence in Manchester city centre.”
What gives Joyce hope is the support Love Saves the Day has received from former customers, suppliers and employees. The company had a turnover of £450,000, employed 25 staff and was proud of its relationships with its local suppliers in particular.

Out of This World
>>EST 1995
TYPE OF OPERATION: Organic supermarkets
BASED: North east
OWNERS: Creative Consumer Co-operative
With food scares aplenty this year, consumers are becoming more demanding about where their food comes from, so it is hardly surprising that wholefoods has emerged as a big growth area.
Tesco is planning a new wholefoods range, while US chain Whole Foods Market is planning a nationwide roll-out once it opens its first UK store in London in 2007.
This trend is also creating plenty of excitement for Out of This World, the organic supermarket chain in the north east of England run by the Creative Consumer Co-operative. It is planning to move its Newcastle store from its 2,000 sq ft outlet to a new 3,000 sq ft premises around the corner from the original site.
Business development director Jon Walker claims the new store, which will open in January, was necessary to cater for its rapidly expanding range and a steady rise in customers.
“Basically the store was becoming too cluttered and, as well as expanding our range, we needed to give many of our existing lines greater standout. Overall this year there has been a boom in sales of fair trade goods as well as local organic lines, while fruit and nuts have been extremely successful,” he explains.
Walker believes the strength of its offer can withstand anything the multiples can throw at it. He says: “They rarely miss a trick when it comes to identifying trends. However, our wholefoods range is a hundred times better than anything they have done until now. ”
Walker says Out of This World is keen to expand in the as yet untapped north and hopes to open a fourth store in the spring.

Off the Vine
>>EST 2004
TYPE OF OPERATION: Wine merchant
BASED: South east
OWNERS: Morgan Hay and Piers Hamilton
Morgan Hay, co-founder of fledgling off-licence chain Off the Vine, says that he can sympathise with some of the difficulties his bigger high street rivals have run into this year. However, he remains optimistic about the growth opportunities within the specialist off-licence market.
Indeed Hay would need to be. He and his business partner Piers Hamilton left good jobs with Thresher to strike out on their own last year and it has been far from plain sailing.
Having begun with stores in Hove, Bromley and St Albans, Off the Vine sold its St Albans store earlier this year. Hay explains that the location there did not fit the bill and the store was simply not big enough to provide the right kind of offer.
Having quickly figured out what works and what doesn’t, Hay is happy with the company’s two remaining stores and is looking forward to the key Christmas trading period and beyond.
“I am 100% confident that there is a market for stores like ours. In the run-up to Christmas we are seeing more and more shoppers who want to get their wine from a specialist rather than simply going to the supermarkets.
“The problem for Unwins is that it doesn’t pass the Tesco test in that it can’t offer a sufficiently different range or service than the multiples,” claims Hay.
As far as expansion plans are concerned, Hay says that he does want to see a number of new Off the Vine stores open during 2006. He says: “There is nothing to report just now but we are talking to people and I hope to have something to announce in the first quarter of next year.”