The Tolley way

01/07/2013 - 14:28
Since securing financial backing from Tesco in 2012, the trio behind Harris + Hoole coffee shops have opened 10 stores, employing 170 people. Nick Tolley discusses the reactions they were faced with when teaming up with the supermarket giant, and how as a business, they have overcome them

Nick is the founder of the Harris + Hoole coffee shops, which he runs along with his Australian siblings Laura and Andrew. The trio secured financial backing from Tesco, in the form of a non-controlling investment, to launch the new high-quality coffee proposition in 2012.

Before establishing Harris + Hoole, the Tolleys founded Taylor St Baristas, an independent coffee brand with nine branches in central London.

How has your business benefited from the Tesco backing?

The reason we chose to work with Tesco is because they recognise our ambition to bring high-quality coffee making to the high street and can support our growth.  It’s tough to find funding for a start-up business and so we were excited that Tesco shared our vision for the business and were prepared to back us.

How, as a business, have you responded to/dealt with some of the responses you have had regarding the announcement with Tesco?

We welcome the chance to engage in a debate but we feel has been a bit of a storm in a tea (or coffee) cup. Tesco has a non-controlling stake in the business and acts as a financial backer to the Harrisn + Hoole brand; we are separate businesses.

We have always been transparent about our relationship with Tesco and the information has been on our website since we launched. We have great people at Harris + Hoole who are working hard to deliver a better coffee experience for our customers, so it’s frustrating if we aren’t given a chance to show people what we’re really about. But we’re delighted we’ve connected with lots of new customers who have been really positive about our stores and our products.

Discuss your expansion plans for the rest of the year?

We don’t have firm expansion plans as they are driven by the response of our customers. We will look to open more stores where and when we can see strong support for our proposition. Things have gone well so far for the first sixteen stores and we hope to be able to expand further during the rest of the year. We intend to open a flagship store in the City of London in June this year, which will be a stand-alone branch of Harris + Hoole, but we haven’t yet finalised the details.

How did the first ‘Tesco’ store do when it first launched?

Since the Tooley St store opened we’ve had great feedback from customers and it’s really exciting to be able to bring great coffee to a wider audience.

How many new openings will be standalone shops and Tesco backed stores, and why?

We will look at each opportunity to open a store in partnership with Tesco separately and we expect to open more stores with Tesco in the future, but there are no confirmed plans to do so at the moment. We will continue to open both stand-alone stores and stores in partnership with Tesco.

How do your standalone outlets differ from those on Tesco sites?

Each of our stores has its own unique look and feel, whether on a Tesco site or not. Every Harris + Hoole store offers the same great coffee, using the latest barista methods, and each day there is a new ‘daily’ recipe for the coffee sold in the shops which is sourced in partnership with Union Hand Roasted Coffee. We also try wherever we can to stock products from producers in the local area, which adds to each shop’s individuality.

What is your business strategy?

Our strategy at Harris + Hoole is to provide great quality coffee to as many people as possible on the high street. Having said this it’s important for us to get each store right and the pace at which we grow will largely be dictated by demand for our coffee and customer feedback.

Would you encourage other businesses to do the same with regards to Tesco?

Tesco was a great fit for the Harris + Hoole business. Laura, Andrew and I decide the business strategy and Tesco respects the fact that we are the coffee experts – that’s why they wanted to invest in the first place.

In March Tesco also announced it bought 100% stake in Giraffe for £48.6m. What is your response to this?

Tesco’s purchase of Giraffe will not have any effect on us as we will continue to operate as a business separate to Tesco. We think it’s a great brand and we wish them every success.

How is the coffee industry faring as a whole?

The UK coffee shop market is growing at about 10pc every year and is worth around £5.4bn so there are plenty of opportunities for different companies to be successful.

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