Eurig Lewis, owner of menswear independent Jackie James in Carmarthen, Wales, discusses why investing, even when the market was difficult, has set his businesses up for future growth.
Jackie James in Carmarthen, Wales
Jackie James was set up out of frustration with the lack of choice of clothing in our town. We had some classic menswear shops that had been around for decades, or the high street stores, which didn’t seem to cater for the 30-plus market. In October 2015, we took the plunge and opened our first menswear store. My wife, Emma, and I already had a bridal store down the road and knew there was a gap in the market for the dapper, well-tailored man, so we focused on this along with casual tweed styles for weddings: something that was on trend but very difficult to find locally at the time.
A year later, we opened a women’s boutique called “Me & Luce”, replicating what we were doing with the men. It is owned and run by Emma, and her sister. I know my limits!
Luckily, we have shown steady growth in a tough market since opening both shops – averaging an 18% increase in sales each year over for the last four years – and in 2019 we decided to expand the operation by acquiring two extra floors, above the womenswear store: one for our groomsmen’s range and the other for bridesmaids.
It was not easy to spend money in a difficult retail climate, especially as Brexit was around the corner, but it is important to be positive and have a clear strategy about the future, and these two extra floors made sense to the business. Both floors are dedicated to wedding parties, bridesmaids and personal fittings. There’s plenty of beautifully decorated space that makes you want to shop. This, coupled with a relaxed and private atmosphere, means the customer feels exclusive and cared for, something that is often lacking in high street stores. This investment should put the business in good stead going forward.
We also installed an Epos system in 2019 and launched a brand new ecommerce website, both of which we felt were vital for the business moving forward. Alas, we had no family holidays last year!
A big sponsorship deal with Scarlets rugby union team was the last bit of investment. A great chunk of the players are Wales rugby stars too, which gives us great exposure on match days. It’s also been a very positive bonus on our social media pages.
Social media is a big part of the business. We created a Peaky Blinders-style promotional video 18 months ago (below). It was incredibly successful for us and brought in a whole host of new customers. We also do a lot within the community: sponsoring local rugby and football teams, pantos and charity events, and generally getting involved.
The most important part of your business is the customer and keeping the customer happy.
Without them you have nothing, so we like to wrap them up with cotton wool. We’ve gone back to how gentleman’s boutiques used to be. People buy from people. If they like you, they will support you and be very loyal. So many shops still get it wrong. I’m always amazed when we are not greeted when shopping, as a simple ‘’good morning’’ makes all the difference.
It’s not very difficult. Start with the basics. Good-quality, fairly priced product and unbeatable customer service. Great advice, top clothes, and a smile really do go the extra mile.