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“Quietly growing a diverse business”

AIS are probably one of the best kept secrets in the Midlands. They don’t have an end consumer profile or Brand awareness but for hundreds of retail members they provide an invaluable and profit enhancing service as the leading buying group in their sector supporting department stores, furniture retailers, toys and other non-food specialists. AIS has been headed by Sheila Cooper for more than 20 years and, in that time, has grown its core business from purely a retail oriented buying group to one with a diverse range of activities.

On the retail side the group has a combined membership of over 360 businesses operating more than 1000 stores with furniture its single biggest merchandise category. Even in the tough retail climate, many of these are thriving with the benefit of the better terms and exclusive merchandise deals gained through AIS. However, diversification has been important to help cushion the knock on effect of the economic situation and weak consumer confidence so various non retail developments have been key to the sustained health of the business.

AIS recently hosted one of the CBI Regional lunches in part of their impressive Cranmore Park Conference, Event & Exhibition Venue that, earlier this year, expanded even further and has recently housed an exclusive Furniture trade show. CBI members can find out more about the available facilities through the link below or by contacting Events Manager Angela Peat.

Another major growth area for AIS has come from the acquisition of the INTERSPORT licence for the UK and Ireland. Sports enthusiasts will be familiar with this Brand and the first class expertise, knowledge and service that the independent INTERSPORT members offer. Since AIS took this over in 2001 it has grown significantly and a few months ago welcomed over 60 DW Sports shops, the sports business owned by Wigan FC Chairman Dave Whelan, into their membership.

Further growth has also come from expansion into office space rental with the purchase 5 years ago of an additional building, Cranmore Place, opposite the main AIS site. Although initial letting was slow due to the property market downturn there has recently been very encouraging signs of greater interest and occupancy is increasing. CBI members looking for more space, or to relocate, are welcome to enquire via our letting agents detailed below.

The continued success of AIS is in no small part due to the leadership and vision from the top but also the commitment and dedication that comes from the 160 employees based at the Shirley offices that have helped AIS to deliver record results in 2011 and make it a Midlands business success story.