Psyche owner Steve Cochrane says Middlesbrough’s booming evening economy is boosting his own award-winning fashion store – and the town is set to take a giant leap forward.
Having marked 35 years at the heart of Middlesbrough’s retail and fashion offering with a week of celebrations, Psyche is set to continue its expansion with the launch of websites focused on the USA, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
With annual sales on target for a record-breaking £9m, Psyche offers an instore and online shopping experience with well over 200 established brands and emerging designers including Moncler, Dries Van Noten, Paul Smith, Aquascutum and Armani.
But it is the entrepreneur’s steadfast commitment to his hometown that has seen the focus of Psyche’s ever-growing success story remain focused on Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road.
With plans to recruit eight new staff, the store will soon employ nearly 100 local people.
And he believes the town’s increasing number of new restaurants and bars is helping to drive forward his store on a local level.
“Going back a few years everyone just went to Yarm, but now Norton is doing so well and Middlesbrough’s evening economy is absolutely brilliant,” said Cochrane, pictured above (left) with Middlesbrough Council chief executive Tony Parkinson inside the Boro store.
“There are new bars and restaurants opening all the time which is adding to the critical mass. If you want to go to a bar or for something to eat in Middlesbrough you’re spoilt for choice. There are some high quality bars and restaurants in Middlesbrough now, which is fantastic.
“I think people’s aspirations are higher now but the more places there are to go then the more people will go out, and the more they go out then the knock-on effect is the more clothes they need to wear, so it’s self-supporting.”
And Cochrane sees further more reasons to be cheerful when he hears about other plans for the town.
“I think Teesside and the North-East generally gets massively overlooked and we certainly don’t get as much governmental support as we should.
“Middlesbrough needs an image makeover but if we can start to attract more investment in then I’m convinced we’re on the cusp of lurching forward as an area.
“The snow centre is good, what the university is doing is really good, there’s the student village that’s being built and the high quality town centre office blocks, so there are lots of fantastic things happening.”
Asked if it had been hard to keep his faith in the town and Teesside generally at times in the past, he answered: “Definitely. The recession hit us hard. 2008, 2009 and 2010 were our wilderness years – it was very tough. Nothing seemed to be happening in Middlesbrough at the time.
“When I first said to the council in 2002 that I wanted to convert the old Uptons department store into Middlesbrough’s version of Harvey Nichols they were quite sceptical that we would pull it off.
“But I think we’re now part of the fabric of the region and particularly of the town. But I never expected in a million years for it to become this big.
“We’ve won the UK Retailer of the Year twice and the national Drapers award three times. It’s just grown and grown and grown.
“It has evolved constantly and we’re still expanding. Online’s phenomenal – we sell all over the world.”
A new Durham store will open within weeks, while November will see the launch of psychefashion.com as Psyche targets the US market, with similar online projects focusing on Australia and United Arab Emirates early in 2018 before they trial foreign language sites.
And does Cochrane remained dedicated to the business?
“Absolutely, yeah,” he replies with genuine enthusiasm. “I want to expand the business for the next five years. I love the business, I love it here. I have to be forced to go home at night!
“This isn’t work – this is fun. It’s your attitude to it that makes the difference. If you like what you do then you have energy about you and it drives you. I’m lucky.”