Southport firm that is a player on the national stage

Based in Southport, Access Point manages pop-up space for some of the UK’s biggest retailers and Jeanette Morgan tells how she went from part-time bookkeeper to co-owner. Tony McDonough reports

Jeanette-Morgan
Jeanette Morgan, co-owner of Access Point in Southport

 

When Jeanette Morgan joined national promotional space specialist Access Point in 1999 she never imagined that one day she would be a co-owner of the business.

Based in Southport, Access Point acts as a broker between retailers and shopping centres looking to utilise spare space and large and small businesses looking to occupy those pop-up spaces to promote their goods and services.

Employing 25 people at the iconic former Sefton Magistrates Court in the town, it operates across the UK. Its customer portfolio contains some of the best-known retail brands in the UK, including Morrisons, Wickes, Dobbies and Booker Group, to name just four.

“We source companies that would complement the host retailer and generate incremental footfall with the added benefit of the additional revenue that this brings.” said Jeanette. “And that doesn’t just include retail units. We can also utilise underused car parking spaces for other businesses who need more parking spaces or require a mobile caterer on site.

“We are a broker between the owners of the space and those seeking to utilise it. And we actively seek out those third party customers. They can be anything from national brands looking to promote their latest products and services or small businesses and start-ups looking to test the water without committing to long-term accommodation.

“That is really important for many small start-ups. They may be wary of committing to up-front accommodation costs so using a pop-up space can be an ideal way of getting a foot in the door. We often see them take temporary space in a venue and then upgrade to permanent space when their businesses start to take off. We love to see that happen.”

Southport BID chief executive Rachel Fitzgerald believes Access Point is a huge asset for the town. She said: “It is fantastic to see a business that is so rooted here in Southport, really making an impact nationally. And they are also an active member of our town’s brilliant community. They really lead by example.

Jeanette joined the business part-time 24 years ago as a bookkeeper. She added: “I was returning to the workplace after having a baby. I then started to work my way upwards through the company.

“I became office manager, then accounts manager, accounts director and, eventually, operations director. About a decade ago I was given the opportunity to buy into the business, which I did. And it was a great decision.”

She now holds the title of managing director and runs the business with co-owner and chief executive David Robertshaw. Finance director Caroline Chong and resource director Amanda Shaw make up the rest of the board.

Although Access Point has invested heavily in new technology, particularly during the pandemic when people had to work from home, Jeanette says the business remains committed to making sure their clients always get to deal with real people.

She explained: “We have spent three years developing a new web portal for our customers and we are just about to start testing that out. It will be ideal for clients who may need to access us after hours. But that person to person contact will always be at the heart of what we do.

“I have, of course, seen changes in our market during the years I have been here. There was a time when retailers could be very particular about renting out their spare space. However, these days they are much more open to it. They recognise what an important revenue stream it is as well as the diversity these businesses can bring.”

“The pandemic had an impact on us similar to many other businesses. We probably managed to maintain approximately 30% of our business during the lockdowns. Obviously renting space indoors came to a halt. Anything experiential where people interacted was a no-no.”

Morrisons
Morrisons is one of Access Point’s biggest clients
Rachel Fitzgerald
Southport BID chief executive Rachel Fitzgerald. Picture by Gareth Jones

 

“However, we were still able to utilise outdoor space for occupiers such as catering vans. Although some retailers had to close, those such as Morrisons and Wickes were seen as essential and were allowed to remain open.

“We had to furlough some staff but we made sure we were able to service and support our customers, and more importantly, we kept in touch with them during the pandemic and our customers have told us how much they appreciated that.”

“As we came out of the final lockdown it was the bigger customers that came back first and now we are seeing the smaller businesses start to follow. We are still around 25% behind where we were pre-pandemic but we are confident of getting back to that level shortly and then continuing our growth story.”

While Access Point is very much a national facing business, and probably the biggest UK operator in its market, Jeannette and the team are also proud to be part of Southport’s business community.

“As well as our headquarters here in Southport, we have operated satellite offices in Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol and Newbury,” she added. “But we didn’t have the same connection with those places as we do with Southport so we decided to merge everything back here.

“Most of our team lives in the local area and we always try to recruit local talent. We will be looking to recruit more people from the Southport area in the near future.”

“I am from Wigan but I have been commuting here for more than 20 years. David is Southport born and bred. We frequently get involved in local projects and charities.

“In the past we have donated 100 hours to help maintain Hesketh Park, supported the local food bank with storage and donations and have charity functions at the court house to raise funds for local causes. Southport is our home, we are part of the community and we are proud to be here.”

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