Meet Sandpiper CI

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Caroline Slowey-Dickinson is Brand Director of SandpiperCI, an international retail and food service operator. The retailer, manages over 80 stores, across four countries, recently expanding its operations into the Isle of Man. Caroline relocated with her family to manage and oversee the successful transition of the business’ expansion to the Island – all during a global pandemic. With a long-standing career in retail, Caroline has witnessed first-hand the evolution of the retail economy, varying shifts in consumer demands, and the ultimate impact of Covid-19 on our high streets and town centres.

SandpiperCI and the Isle of Man

SandpiperCI is an international retail group, with over 80 stores across the Channels Islands, Gibraltar and most recently, the Isle of Man.  We partner with a host of household brands including Apple, Matalan, Morrisons and Marks and Spencer. One of our long-term ambitions was to bring our brands to the Isle of Man, and over the last several years we have been working tirelessly with our partners to achieve this; delivering two of our core brands, Card Factory and Apple, to the Island’s high street in 2020.

My role as Brand Director of the Group is an incredibly varied and interesting one. As we operate a number of franchises covering food, hospitality, clothing, home and technology, it requires me to cover a number of key areas including budget management, business strategy, operations, brand development, people management and marketing - to name but a few!

The High Street Post-Pandemic

Although the pandemic has had a profound impact on our high streets, I strongly believe that retail will remain a core function of our town centres. Over the past 18 months, major retailers are reinventing their store experiences, making greater use of technology to showcase their products and services. Although we have seen a reduction in the number of locations these larger outlets trade in, we have in tandem seen a rise in independent retailers, pop-ups and new retail concepts.  Local businesses, often with local produce and a distinctive offer, and whether in full time premises or market environments, will become important attractors for high streets.

Furthermore, as shoppers become increasingly focused on sustainability, the provenance of products and supporting local businesses, as well as the gaps left behind by the chain stores, has allowed these independent retailers to grow. I do feel that the two happily sit side by side, and help deliver a wider and more interesting shopping experience, but the consumer still wants to see the brands they know and love, and the future of the high street requires both to be successful.

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The Hybrid Model of ‘Bricks and Online’

The Hybrid model was already on the rise before Covid-19 with many retailers embracing the many ecommerce options available to them. However, this has developed considerably since the pandemic, with a number of businesses adapting their individual models to offer a click and collect or delivery service.

During the pandemic SandpiperCI developed an online option for our iQ Apple Premium Reseller brand, offering both a delivery and click and collect service across all our Islands. These both sit side by side, offering the best possible service for the local community regardless of their ability to visit our stores. 

The Evolution of our Town Centres

Recent reports and research indicate that many town centres across the British Isles are undergoing transformation and regeneration projects. This isn’t just limited to painting shop front exteriors, and re-laying pavements, but creating ‘town brands’, developing innovative town marketing campaigns and town-centric events. I’ve certainly seen it first hand in the Channel Islands, and probably most prominently on the Isle of Man, which for a fairly small Island has seven town centres – all diverse in their amenities and offerings.

These projects are incredibly beneficial; the consumer still wants an experience; somewhere to visit and spend time with friends and family, and it’s important that we offer the best possible experience. The customer will be driven by the look and feel of the shopping environment and expectations are always high; it’s therefore important that visually our high streets are to the best possible standard - certainly whilst we are trying to entice them back following Covid-19. It’s also important that the private and public sector, volunteers, town commissioners and councils collectively work together to deliver these ambitious but incredibly innovative town branding projects to maximise on the marketing opportunities available.

Setting up in the Isle of Man during a Global Pandemic

Having opened a number of stores for SandpiperCI, I would say this was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve faced as a retailer – but the most rewarding. SandpiperCI was a brand new business and name to the Isle of Man, but we were welcomed with open arms! Local contractors, businesses and the Isle of Man Government were supportive and proactive to help deliver our stores to the highest standard. Traditionally we would have utilised off-Island support to help deliver our brand vision, but as a local team, we achieved this and more.

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My Isle of Man Story

I decided to relocate from Jersey to the Isle of Man to ensure a smooth transition of Sandpiper’s two partner brands Apple and Card Factory in 2020 and to manage our on-going and future developments on the Island. Our relocation even though during a global pandemic, was very smooth. The support from local Government and the community, including a wealth of local online information, helped make the transition much easier.

Everyone we have come across has been very welcoming and friendly, really showcasing the Island to the highest standard. Our weekends are spent exploring; having moved from a smaller island with our daughter (and a newly acquired sausage dog!) we have been struck by the awe-inspiring beauty and varied landscape on offer on the Isle of Man; with rolling mountains, beautiful beaches and a huge range of lifestyle, historical and sporting activities on offer, we really have fallen in love with this hidden gem.


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