Astound shuts up shop

Retail design specialist Astound is to close this summer following ‘creative differences’ among the consultancy’s directors, resulting in redundancies among the 50-strong staff.

It has emerged this week that board directors Mark Dickins, Michael Longmore and Nick Chapman aim to go their separate ways. Dickins will focus on consultancy and strategy, while Longmore will concentrate on creative design and Chapman hopes to move to the client side.

A large staff, coupled with difficulties finding senior management, have led to the creation of an ‘unwieldy beast, managed by just a few people’, according to Dickins. Redundancies will be made in the coming months, but several employees may find work with individual directors’ start-ups.

Dickins denies industry speculation that Astound has suffered financially, saying that the directors have differing views on how to ‘move forward’.

‘We have different interests. Financially, we are in a healthy state [and] we have always run quite a tight ship,’ he says. ‘The design industry is not easy and we are at a size where it is difficult because we have a big infrastructure. There is also a concern with recruiting senior-level staff. We wanted some sort of amicable ending now, rather than create problems down the line, so we called it a day before that happened.’

Last month, Astound associate director Steve Royle left to set up his own consultancy.

The planned closure of Astound follows news that rival retail design group Din Associates is also shutting down.

Business commentator Bob Willott believes that the rise of on-line retail could be a reason for the demise of retail specialists. ‘Retailers will have a certain amount of money for marketing services and retail space is likely to reduce as consumers buy more on-line. So a smaller slice of the budget will be spent on interiors and more kept for on-line marketing,’ he suggests.

• Formed in 1997 by Mark Dickins and Michael Longmore
• Other directors are Nick Chapman and Alison Stoner, although Stoner left at Christmas
• Clients include Tesco, B&Q and Superdrug

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