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Q&A: Steve Grocutt, Founder and Owner, The Cornish Bakery

With over 50 bakeries across the UK, The Cornish Bakery is now firmly the country’s leading independent, high-end bakery. Can you tell us a bit about… View Article


Q&A: Steve Grocutt, Founder and Owner, The Cornish Bakery

With over 50 bakeries across the UK, The Cornish Bakery is now firmly the country’s leading independent, high-end bakery.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I built my own business interests previously, mostly in property development and real estate investment into public houses. And this has been paramount in my understanding of what properties, and locations, are going to work, and work well, for the current expansion of The Cornish Bakery.  I spend a lot of time driving around the country spotting the next hot location.  I’ve also invested in boats – but this route is most definitely not recommended!

Can you describe your current role, and where it sits within the organisation?

I am the Founder and Owner of The Cornish Bakery, and I spend most of my time developing the business plan and brand

Can you tell us what your company does?

With over 50 bakeries across the UK, The Cornish Bakery is now firmly the country’s leading independent, high-end bakery. Although now an artisan-style bakery chain, I initially seized an opportunity to add a unique contemporary twist to the classic, and cult-loved, Cornish pasty when we opened on the quaint harbourside in Mevaggisey in Cornwall.  Experimenting with previously unheard-of flavours in traditional pasty casings, demand soared and we followed that with swift, but careful, expansion.  With a vital switch of focus from only-pasties to a full bakery proposition, our multi-award-winning rebrand to The Cornish Bakery fuelled explosive potential across our product portfolio, with matching sales growth and significant returns.

In addition to the much-loved pasty, we sell a wide range of artisan products such as beautifully buttery French pastries, light fluffy scones, a selection of freshly made lunch and breakfast rolls, our secret-recipe Cornish pudding, a selection of indulgent cakes and the most exceptional Union hand-roasted coffee.

What’s special about your company? Is there a particular gap in the market you are trying to address?

As a company, we are obsessive about ‘turning left when others turn right’ and over the last decade we watched the high street become more expensive and competitive. Whilst others failed on said high streets, I got in my car and drove around all of the country’s holiday hot spots, spotting ‘postcard’ locations where I knew The Cornish Bakery’s unique proposition would work – and work well. This strategy of targeting holiday locations with the right feel and market rather than every high street in the land has indeed served us incredibly well, particularly through the pandemic.

In addition, we have nailed a way of creating an emotional-connection with the ‘Cornwall state of mind’, whether people have ever been there or not. The ever-discerning customer is continually looking for something more niche, that provides a unique emotional experience and sensory connection.  As Cornwall continues to go from strength-to-strength as the place to be, so do we.

What challenges are retailers facing in 2021 and where do you see UK retail into the next year or so?

I would say the challenges facing retailers in 2021 are supply issues.  recruitment is also a challenge but we are faring amazingly well and are proud of our colleague benefits such as uncapped bonus, free membership of our generous share scheme, long service awards every 5 years (£500) & 10 years (£1000), opportunities to progress with expansion, special occasion enhanced holiday entitlement with one off ‘Cornish Moments’ payments and much more.

How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?

We will continue with our ongoing re-investment strategy, our growth strategy and positive cultural strategy all of which are paying continual dividends many times over alongside careful, considered investment in all that we do right across the UK.

The pandemic may have caused us to take a temporary pause from the frontline business, however, it’s actually fuelled our hunger for determined growth of all the right kinds, in all the right ways.

What is on the horizon for you as a company?

We are now turning our gaze to ‘high streets’ – but only a specific kind of ‘high street.’ Often in traditional market towns and cathedral cities, the recent openings in Lymington, Chichester, Dorchester, will be followed by Bakewell, Rye, Bury St Edmunds, Stamford and Plymouth Barbican in the near future.  And all have a number of vital elements in common: historical locations, beautiful buildings, and a regular, year-round high-yield footfall, as well as a summer boost when the tourists come to town.

These locations will drive a new breed of ‘bakeries’ for my team, and they will also fuel a new experiential brand evolution, as well as interior styling and a more high-end menu of freshly cooked options, and stylish afternoon teas, elongating the experience for new, and younger, target customers.

Within our bakeries, sales are in significant growth, with like-for-like way up compared to 2019 and the summer of 2020.  Our enhanced menus are delivering extremely strong average transaction growth and we’re leading our industry with our commitment to low waste due to our innovation in our ‘recycled’ products. Our new mail order option also elongates the year and provides our holiday customers with a way to get their ‘Cornish Bakery’ hit at home whenever they want.

Bakery is most definitely the new coffee shop and our carefully crafted brand and interior design evolution will continue to inform and pioneer our high-end proposition as we get further into the 2020s.  The future is bright, the future is Cornish!

Are there other companies you partner with that help you achieve your goals? (That you’d like to share).

We are proud to partner with some amazing suppliers from Cornwall itself or in the South West, from whom we source ingredients and products, sharing the freshness and optimum quality that has become synonymous with one of the country’s favourite food and drink destinations.

We also have an incredible relationship with Union Coffee who are beyond Fairtrade, who were one of the first roasters in the UK to trade directly with coffee farmers and pride themselves on constantly improving the quality of coffee and livelihoods.

On a personal note, what are the key challenges – and most rewarding aspects – of your role?

I would say that the main challenge is keeping the independent culture and the most rewarding element is delivering an independent culture for all of our colleagues

How has your previous retail experience helped you in your current role?

I have no previous retail experience as such so cannot comment. Believe it or not, I have never actually been employed.

What advice would you give someone interested in a career in retail?

This is quite simple. I would say ‘location location location’!

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