Johnstons of Elgin’s retail MD tells graeme moran how a brand can uphold its traditions while embracing modernity.
Why has interest in ‘Made in Britain’ increased over recent seasons?
The price gap has been reducing between Far East manufacturing and ‘Made in Britain’ product. Customers also have concerns over the quality of Far East product and around the service level when repeat business is required. ‘Made in Britain’ firms such as Johnstons of Elgin can deliver quality, on-time product, with the ability for repeat orders at shorter lead times.
How do you balance Johnstons of Elgin’s 215-year woollen and cashmere heritage with keeping it modern?
With great care. We have a responsibility as custodians of a family business to maintain and evolve the values on which it was founded. Our rich heritage is the heartbeat of the brand, but rather than look back, we use it to inspire constant evolution, to ensure our relevance and place in the contemporary luxury markets.
Sum up Johnstons in three words?
Luxury, heritage, experts.
You started on the shop floor at the age of 15. How do you explain your successful career progression?
Always be a student in life, willing to learn from great mentors. Work closely with them and soak up as much information as possible. The next important key is also identifying when you are unfortunate enough to end up with a poor mentor! When you know this, move on.
What has been your career highlight?
My wife, Laura, and I had the great pleasure of representing Johnstons at a function at the Castle of Mey, the former holiday home of the Queen Mother. There we met and chatted with The Prince of Wales (or the Duke of Rothesay as he is known in Scotland).
What is your top business tip?
Ensure that every retail conversation and decision is made with ‘customer in mind’, then you won’t go far wrong. And attention to detail.
What is your dream job?
I would have loved to have experienced a career in the world of sport. I enjoy watching and playing football – that would have been a dream come true.
What would we find you doing in your spare time?
Spending quality time with my wife, Laura, and our one-year-old son, Joshua. Maybe some gardening and, when time permits, playing a few holes on the golf course.
If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Black Kurt Geiger shoes, black slim jeans, white, slim-fitted Hilditch & Key shirt and a Johnstons of Elgin cashmere tweed jacket.
What has been your biggest fashion splurge?
I’m loving my new Christopher Kane cardigan (Johnstons-made, of course).