Arnold community rallies around independent sofa shop battling big chains

A sofa and beds shop in Arnold that looked set to close during the pandemic is now going from “strength to strength”, according to its owner. Kuki Virdi, 54 and the owner of Arnold Sofas and Beds Centre was concerned about the future of his store this time last year – facing slow trade due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent impact on the high street.

But the local community has rallied around Mr Virdi and his store. “We’re doing okay, business is back and good and better now,” he said. I’m blessed really, eighty percent of our trade is word of mouth and people coming back over and over, telling their friends about the store. The local community is really strong.”

When asked about how he feels looking back at the past year, Virdi said: “At the end of the day, we’re not like the Titanic you know, with our heads barely above the water. The people around me and the community around me are with me a hundred and ten percent – they’ve been excellent. I do my best for the customers even now, that’s why people are still coming back and supporting me – from start to finish I’m working hard to help the customers in every way and make sure they’re happy.

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“I’m not like the big-boy retailers where it’s just ‘sign here and off you go’ – I have a relationship with this community.” He continued: “Most importantly, I’ve got my health – that’s all you can really hope for.”

Mr Virdi has also converted the upstairs of his store into flats – both of which are still occupied and rented.

Bethany Green, a 27-year-old master’s student and resident of Arnold is glad to see the store thriving. She said: “It stands apart from its competitors being a family run business. This is something rare in today’s retail sector, especially after the pandemic. I like the fact that I can directly support someone from my own community, it gives it a much more personal feel.”

Another Arnold resident, John Gray, 63, who works part-time in the high street marketplace, still sees the effects of the pandemic however. “It’s quiet here, really quiet. There’s just nobody in a lot of the shops anymore, there’s about 25 empty shops up the street.”