A Unique local business, with two minds, and one big heart.

We’re delighted to join Paul and Jane, and their family-run business, Unique Knit and Sew, and Unique Workwear in celebrating 20 years of business this year!



The two unique brands operate under one roof and can be found on London Road. Unique Knit and Sew is a knitting, sewing, and crafting shop, located on the ground floor that stocks a multitude of knitting and sewing accessories, from patterns, kits, buttons, ribbons, wool, thread, and thousands of different colourful yarns!



Unique Knit and Sew stock leading brands, including Stylecraft, King Cole and Sirdar

As you venture upstairs, the hum of the embroidery and printing machines tells you, you’re entering the other side of their business, which Paul refers to as a ‘completely different operation’. Unique Workwear, among other services, supply and provides corporate workwear, both nationally and locally. Describing the two businesses as ‘two minds’, Paul shares the story of how their printing and embroidery business has evolved from a seafront concession in 2001, to where they are today.


Jane working on one of Unique Workwear's embroidery machines

‘We started out on the seafront with one heat press and had very little to our name, then, an opportunity came up to run the deck chair concession as well - so, the first year was very interesting! Things were different in 2001, it was a real eye-opener; the demographic of Bognor Regis was different, and the Internet hadn’t really kicked in.’


Their growing business (and family) took on a market stall in 2003, and then moved into their first shop in the arcade in 2004. (As well as having an embroidery shop just outside of the town centre.)



Paul and Jane's first business, 'Bognor Unique Merchandise', on Bognor Regis seafront in 2001

Paul says he’s always had a keen interest in the community and the changing high street of Bognor Regis, and it’s clear those influences have been the driving force behind the evolution of his own business.


Both brands were once under one roof in The Arcade


‘The shop in the arcade was more of a t-shirt printing shop instead of impulse purchases, so, the business evolved and developed into printing and embroidery, and we started delivering more of the work wear products. We went from a small unit to a massive shop, which brought challenges! We wanted to make sure we were delivering the right product and stay on top of how retail was evolving. In 2011, we had the space to develop, and expanded into knitting and sewing. As retail continued to change and evolve, we decided to downsize from the arcade, and relocate to London Road, where we still are today.’







As well as marking 20 years in business in Bognor Regis, Paul has also worked as an integral part of the community, serving as an elected member of Arun District Council, Bognor Regis Town Council and West Sussex County Council since 1999, as well as volunteering as Chairman of the Bognor Regis BID in from 2018 to 2019. In 2013 Paul was elected Mayor of Bognor Regis, which he says is one of the highlights of his career.


‘It was a huge honour to be appointed Mayor. I've always been a great believer in the community and I'm a great advocate for trying to give something back. Our community has been fantastic to us as a business for the past 20 years, and I feel it’s the right thing to do.’




As Paul reflects, he described the past 18 months, and lockdown as one of the most difficult challenges his business has had to contend with. And, like many of his previous business decisions, the need of the community influenced how they responded. The reality of what that experience felt like for a retailer, is hard to ignore when speaking to Paul.


‘It was like someone had switched a light switch off.’


‘We closed the doors on the Saturday afternoon. With no indication from government at that time of what was going to happen. It was very surreal. We were just expected to close the door! Many of us didn’t know if we’d have a business to come back to, and when you reflect – it was a very scary time.


As a family, we revaluated what we could do to adapt and change, await guidelines, look at the needs of our community and keep the business going. We had to evolve quickly and move the business forward, and the only way we could do that was through the website while also providing a safe home delivery service to people locally. We had two options: we close the business, or we come back to a business. And this was the case for a lot of retailers, you know, especially with smaller independents. In those circumstances you have to evolve into different ways of working. And I think everybody took the challenge!’


Unique Knit and Sew are looking forwards and have recently invested in giving the shop a makeover. Their goal is to make the shop more of a pleasurable experience to visit by installing better lighting, new displays and making it easier to move around. They are also focusing more on their online presence and staying more connected to their dedicated followers and subscribers. Paul said that he is looking forward to launching new promotions and competitions online soon.





Christmas stock is now available from Unique Knit and Sew

While looking forwards in his own business, Paul shares his thoughts about the bright future of Bognor Regis high street. ‘I’ve seen huge changes over the past two decades, and more changes are coming! Bognor Regis is a blank canvas – there’s so much opportunity here, to bring in new opportunities and experiences.


I think the town centre needs more focus, rather than out-of-town experiences, as this is where we want our community to gather and dwell. If you want a vibrant and healthy town centre, then it’s important to focus on it. People want to come and have a bite to eat, and have a great experience, in a safe and welcoming environment.’


Lastly, and most importantly …


From a seafront concession, to serving as Mayor in Bognor Regis, Paul has gained wealth of knowledge and experience over the past 20 years, so, when asked, what accomplishment he is most proud of, Paul didn’t have to think long about his reply!


‘The fact that I have worked side-by-side with my wife Jane.’


‘Jane and I have always worked together. We met in retail and have worked alongside each other ever since! We got married in 1995 and have brought our family up in Bognor Regis. We’ve always worked as a team, and I feel fortunate enough to be able to walk this path as a couple. To be able to do that is a bonus!’



It's a family affair for Paul and Jane, who have worked side-by-side for over 25 years

With a team of six family members, Paul continued to say how working as a family is so important to him.


‘It’s like bringing your home into your business and work, we face challenges together and we try to create a homely experience when people visit us.’


We can certainly vouch for the homely and welcoming environment when you spend time at Unique Knit and Sew. Whether you’re a new crafter, or a professional looking to stock up on essentials - it’s the perfect place to explore!


Like many other independent businesses in Bognor Regis, Unique Knit and Sew, and Unique Workwear’s story is one of true grit and resilience. (We’re beginning to think it must be the sunshine that fuels the determination!) Whatever it is, we’re grateful to have caring businesses and individuals trying to make a difference … In their own unique way!



To find Unique Knit and Sew visit: www.uniqueknitandsew.co.uk

To find Unique Workwear visit: www.uniqueworkwear.com


Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Uniqueknitandsew

https://www.facebook.com/uniqueworkwear


Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/uniqueknitandsew/


All photography is by Peter Flude. Peter is local, and passionate about telling the stories of Bognor Regis's indie businesses. You can find out more about his work at www.fludefoto.co.uk and www.peterflude.co.uk and follow him at @fludefoto and @peterflude


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