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Success Story: Nine Hints From Top British Clothing Retailer Jeremy Hackett

Jan 17 2014, 1:11pm CST | by

Success Story: Nine Hints From Top British Clothing Retailer Jeremy Hackett
Photo Credit: Forbes
 
 

The Hackett store that opened on London’s Regent Street in November 2013 is one of the most imposing retail outlets on one of the city’s most imposing streets. Founder Jeremy Hackett opened his first store on King’s Road in 1983, selling second-hand clothes he sourced from market stalls. It would be tempting to say this is a rags-to-riches story, except that no rags have ever been involved: Jeremy Hackett has only ever dealt in garments of the highest quality. The Hackett brand’s traditional values of quality, cut and finish are so strong that people frequently ask him if the business was established by his father or grandfather. Jeremy Hackett’s Mr Classic blog is recognised as an authoritative voice on style for men.

So: how does a brand that’s 30 years young establish itself as a heritage label?

 

 You might not need to tread the conventional route and you might even be too cool for school

“It was a very modest beginning – there was no business plan, no marketing plan and no money. I left school at 16. My headmaster said there wasn’t much point in staying on. I had a Saturday job in a tailor’s store in Bristol and I asked for a full-time post. At the age of 19 I realised I had to go to London to make a career of it – that was where the retail industry was.”

… but you need to know your market

“When I opened my first shop in 1983, at what the bank manager said was the wrong end of King’s Road, I’d already had 15 years in retail so I had a good understanding of good classic clothes. I’d started buying that good classic British clothing second-hand in markets, I’d sell it to a friend in Paris and that went very well for a while. Than I thought ‘Why don’t I sell for myself?’ so I got that little shop – at the time it was all I could afford. The rent was £60 a week, I think, and the first week’s turnover was £1,000. I would trawl through piles of clothes at markets and find a perfect handmade Savile Row suit, at the same price as a suit you’d find in a high-street store. The type of clothes I bought and the way I edited them made it feel as though you were walking into a gentleman’s store rather than a second-hand shop. People would be queuing on a Saturday.”

Keep control of quality

“We did second-hand for about three years and got to a point where I would go to the market and I couldn’t find enough really good-quality clothing, so I thought we should start a new line based on the same principles: what people want, what they need. I made a very small, edited range of new clothing and eventually the new clothes took over: customers were surprised by the quality of the cloth, the styling, the cut. We created a brand organically.”

Love your brand

“When I worked in Savile Row, I worked for an extremely industrious, madly enthusiastic man called John Michael. He was the first person who made me think of not just having a shop, not just being a retailer, but having a brand. When I first started, I made sure everything in the shop was branded Hackett.”

Don’t be afraid to swim against the tide

“At one time you could buy Savile Row-type clothes from other brands but a lot of the older companies put that to one side and were distracted by other looks. When we launched, there was a lot of 1980s style out there, and we had a much more tailored look – the timing was absolutely right. I didn’t set out to build a heritage brand, it just happened. People say to me ‘Did your father or grandfather start this business?’ – it seems to have an integrity about it that makes people think it’s older than it is. We have such a British emphasis: we have built events that people go to, such as Ascot, the Derby, weddings, into the brand.”

Know the figures – or find someone who does

“I think perhaps in the early days I should have had a good financial partner to achieve that balance between the product and the finances. I was good at product but I wasn’t good at the numbers. Seeing how important the financial side is, I now know the combination of the two makes for a very good relationship.”

Believe in what you’re doing/>/>

“What’s really important is that you have a belief in whatever you’re doing and that you have a point of view. I had that when I started Hackett. I worked extremely hard at it and it was also lot of fun. I never thought of it as work when I was starting. I’d be up at 4am to be at Portobello Road, I’d take the clothes back to my little warehouse, sort them out for repairing, cleaning, laundering. I’d open the shop at 10am, be in the shop all day and spend the evening replenishing it. I loved going to the market, not knowing what I’d buy, finding something amazing, and seeing it go from the shop that very day. I still feel that excitement, but in a different way – Hackett is such a big business now. But when I come up with an idea, present it, the design department turns it into a product and it sells, I still think … yesss!”

Be subtle in your social media promotion

“The internet is a vital tool for the business. I’m not on Facebook, I don’t Tweet, but my blog, Mr Classic, is a way of keeping up with the 21st century. I don’t rabbit on about Hackett, though. It’s a quiet way of informing people. People believe in Hackett more if you see good in other products and brands alongside your own. I don’t like to preach to people about what they should wear – everyone has their own style. I just give little pointers.”

Don’t be tempted use your home as collateral

Before I had Hackett, I was involved with a business where we opened a shoe shop in Covent Garden before Covent Garden was really established. It was really tough. My biggest mistake was giving my apartment to the bank as surety – I had to give it up to the bank. So don’t ever secure your property against your business. I’m never opening another shoe shop!”

Jeremy Hackett is the personality of his brand – just as award-winning baker Camilla Stephens is the personality of hers

Source: Forbes

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