New Stanfords flagship opens tonight

News - Bookselling Thursday, 10 January 2019

Official launch this evening of new Covent Garden store in Mercer Walk, replacing the iconic Long Acre shop

Vivien Godfrey, chairman and chief executive of Stanfords, said: "This exciting move is all about 'right sizing'. Our instore business remains very important but we have had rapid growth of our online business and need a better distribution of space between office and store. Nielsen, the global measurement and data analytics company, carried out market research for us showing that Stanfords is primarily a destination shop. Our customer base is very loyal and many people tell us they make a pilgrimage to Stanfords when in London, so we hope they will be delighted with our new premises.

"We will offer the existing, wide range of maps, globes, books and travel related products, and we will grow some areas which are newer to us such as maritime charts.

"We are now the only chart agent in London and are growing our range of products and in particular our 'print on demand' charts and digital maritime products. We will use available technology to create many more 'made to order' customised maps. We have also seen a very significant increase in the demand for personalised, as well as customised, products. In addition we will be expanding the café and introducing an adventurous global exploration theme to our menus."

During the preparations for the move, material has been uncovered which will go on display for the first time from March next year in a six month-long exhibition at the Mercers’ Covent Garden Estate, near Stanfords’ new home. The free event will showcase historical items including letters from Captain Scott and Florence Nightingale.

As part of the official store opening event, the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards will also be announced, by explorer and Stanfords customer Benedict Allen.

Allen said: "Stanfords to me is THE map shop – a place of inspiration as well as a source of information. A visit to Stanfords is always the starting point for my adventures, a first point of call as I read the latest literature on jungles and deserts and my last point of call as I buy the trusty maps that I need for my travels. Finally, when the journey is done, and the book written, it is the place to gather with friends and loved ones to celebrate."

According to a statement from Stanfords: 'There is great historical significance attached to many of Stanfords’ maps. Wars have been fought and won, expeditions successfully completed and new peaks conquered. General Gordon, Captain Scott and Florence Nightingale were just three of the most loyal Victorian customers. In The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, obtaining a large scale map from Stanfords is a significant aid to crime solving for Sherlock Holmes.
'The store was the national distributor for military maps until recently, and kept all classified maps used by the British Army. Whenever they were needed, Stanfords would get the word, package them up and send them off.

.In April 1941, during the Blitz, the Long Acre store took a direct hit and the top two floors were virtually destroyed by the fire. Fortunately maps cushioned the blow and as stacked paper does not burn easily most of the stock survived, although for years afterwards Ordnance maps were being sold with charred edges.

'In 1982, British Army reps came into the store and bought up every single map pertaining to The Falkland Islands. Shortly afterwards war was declared.

'It’s not just wars and great adventures for which Stanfords’ maps are used. The cartographic team is often asked for maps for Hollywood productions. They have produced extraordinarily detailed maps for the production crews of a host of James Bond movies so fixtures from cameras to tea vans can go in the right place.'

The Mercer Street store is round the corner from the Long Acre site, and, at 4,000 sq ft of floorspace spread across two floors rather than three, slightly smaller.

The move, which is less than 150 yards geographically, was triggered by a steep increase in rent at the famous Long Acre store, driven in part by the increasing popularity of Covent Garden as a premier tourist and retail site in Central London.

Pictured: the new Stanfords

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