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British retailer wins repeat business with customer-first strategy

Entrepreneur Carole Lannon loves Tampa Bay, and she loves her native England. Now she combines both with a thriving business, London Pride.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. March 14, 2024
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Carole Lannon, a London-born American, runs London Pride, two Tampa Bay stores that cater to local Anglophiles who buy the imported candies, jams, beans, soaps and more.
Carole Lannon, a London-born American, runs London Pride, two Tampa Bay stores that cater to local Anglophiles who buy the imported candies, jams, beans, soaps and more.
Photo by Mark Wemple
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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Brick-and-mortar stores face competition from Amazon and other e-retailers, but English businesswoman Carole Lannon found a niche the internet can't quite match. 

An accountant born in London and now an American, she has found her second act: selling British meats, candies, potato chips ("crisps") and wares at a pair of stores dubbed London Pride in Largo and Tampa.

The Anglo angle is fairly unique for Tampa Bay, and it has regular customers coming in to the stores, grabbing mini-shopping carts to push around the aisles and stocking up on bangers (sausage), crisps, Cadbury chocolate, Earl Grey tea, Imperial Leather soap, scones and maybe a Queen Elizabeth II commemorative mug. Luckily, the Tampa and Pinellas County markets have enough Anglophiles, British immigrants and expats to more than keep Lannon and her eight employees busy.

Lannon bought the Largo store from retiring Britons in 2017 and expanded to Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa in 2022. Good with numbers, Lannon sensed an eastern market in Hillsborough County after she made some free deliveries in the pandemic. 

Most of her business depends on British-born persons — people familiar with Cadbury chocolate, Lion bars and bangers. While it's difficult to estimate the number of British-born persons in the Tampa Bay region, Lannon estimates 80% of her regular customers were born in the United Kingdom: the royal union of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

British-style meat products are a big seller. Yet it's difficult to import British meat, Lannon says, so she uses Cameron's British Foods and Imports in Cape Coral — a Scottish-American business. The Cape Coral bakery was founded in 1973 after the Scottish family chose Southwest Florida over New Jersey, according to their website. Lannon can get British-style meats of all kinds, including hand-crafted haggis, from Cameron's.

Tampa Bay's Britons and Irish who miss home can always go to Carole Lannon's London Pride, in Largo or Tampa, to buy mugs, flags, meats and candies from the British Isles.
Photo by Mark Wemple

Other clientele include Irish, curious Americans and Canadians.

Business is good, Lannon says, as she keeps her prices reasonable. She won't discuss revenues, saying only her number "ends in six zeroes." During holidays, she usually has to add employees as British customers want particular foods and candies from their celebratory times on the two isles.

One example is the British fondness for Cadbury chocolate eggs. Lannon ordered 3,000 of them for Easter. Lannon herself identifies Cadbury Dairy Milk Fruit and Nuts bar as her favorite British chocolate.

And then there's the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of King Charles III.

"The coronation and other royal celebrations always generate lots of extra business," Lannon says. "Not only the memorabilia but people like to get together for watch parties and have either the full English breakfast or scones and tea."

Lannon, formerly of London and Hampshire, left the United Kingdom in 1994, first living in Germany. She missed her British staples but soon found a Munich retailer that sold her favorite things, according to her website.

Lannon's husband got a request for work in the United States in 1996, and they later landed in Pinellas County. As in Munich, in 2001 Lannon would discover London Pride, a St. Pete Beach store later moved to Largo where she could find chocolate bars and other English fare.

The Largo store came up for sale in 2017 because the owners went home to England, she says, and Lannon, no longer wanting to be an accountant, bought the store. And like King Arthur, she soon faced a quest: surviving Hurricane Irma.

The challenge — from saving the food from power outages to fixing up the aisles — allowed Lannon to make the store her own, she says. The purchase represented her longtime dream to own an English goods store in the United States, she says.

"One of my childhood memories is of the silver jubilee in 1977," says Lannon of Queen Elizabeth II's 25th year as queen. "Lots of street parties and flags flying. When I started in this business I had a very clear idea of how I wanted the shops to look and it was inspired by those street parties. A happy place that celebrates the fun side of our birthplace."

Then another Arthurian quest presented itself: COVID-19. Lannon took to making free deliveries. So in 2022, she opened her West Kennedy Boulevard location to be about half-an-hour from the many spots she once delivered to, such as Brandon. The Tampa Bay region appears to be have a fair share of native Britons and Irish on all sides of the bay.

Lannon says particular palate pleasers have become a good market because you never forget the food you grew up with. "There's some taste of home you miss," says Lannon, a U.S. citizen since 2005.


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