A NETWORK of the region's leading entrepreneurs has highlighted the achievements of two members who are rising from the ongoing high street slowdown by developing a resilient blend of online and in-store shopping experiences.

Connection Flooring, which is based in Shildon, County Durham, grew its turnover to £36.5m this financial year – up £13.5m on the previous 12 months while South Tyneside menswear company Master Debonair has achieved a turnover of £2.5m after it began selling accessories just over three years ago.

Both businesses plan to expand further – bolstered by a huge rise in customer demand for their digital and bricks-and-mortar services.

Jonathan Lamb, chief executive of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, said: “Sadly, many established high street names are feeling the strain and some are struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing retail landscape. Connection Flooring and Master Debonair are examples of innovative businesses which have developed a new and exciting take on traditional retail. Their success should encourage those who value the high street by combining a new approach to digital and in-store experiences.”

Connection Flooring was founded in 2012 as an online business but over the past two-and-a-half years it has opened 16 stores nationwide – with more due in 2020.

Managing director Dan Foskett said: “There’s no doubt that the retail climate is tough, but there is room to grow for businesses that are doing things differently.

“We’ve been able to achieve success with our stores by bringing new ideas and concepts to traditional retail.”

Part of its success is based on the creation of its own transport network, based on nine national hubs, which ensures next day delivery to 98 per cent of postcodes.

The company, which offers the Flooring Superstore, Grass Direct and Direct Wood Flooring brands- employs more than 150 people UK-wide.

Simon Whitaker founded Master Debonair with wife Eve after the death of his father, due to his frustration at being unable to find a suitable tie clip and pocket square to wear to the funeral.

He began selling menswear accessories via Facebook but after connecting with a suit supplier, opened a shop in his hometown of East Boldon in 2016, which has since trebled in size due to customer demand.

The business, named Best Independent Menswear Retailer 2019 by fashion institute Drapers, has opened a second store in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and is looking for a presence in London.

Mr Whitaker said: “Our online sales have grown to 30 per cent but bricks-and-mortar remains the major part of the business.

"People regularly visit us from around the country and that is down to the style of our products and the fantastic retail experience we provide.”