In 1977 (at the tender age of 15) my father left me alone in his menswear shop in Yardley Wood, Birmingham, while he went out to run an errand. By the time he returned I had sold a pair of Wrangler jeans with matching denim jacket… double denim! And so began my career in the rag trade. Each Saturday morning I was dragged from my warm bed to help in the shop, I didn’t complain because the £6.00 I earnt came in very useful, sometimes to buy red pop… but that’s another story.
My other duties included being dragged out of bed (can you see a pattern forming?) in the early hours of the morning to repair smashed doors, locks, windows and on one occasion a roof, you see my father’s shop was so popular people couldn’t wait for it to open so often helped themselves during the hours of darkness. My woodwork ‘O’ level came in very handy and I soon became a dab hand at securing the property. On one such occasion we arrived to find eleven fire engines pouring water into our rear garage which some thoughtful sole had decided to warm up for us. I know eleven fire engines is a lot but the shop next door was a chemist who stored oxygen and gas cylinders so most of the fireman were actually just watching.
In 1981 my father expanded his business by purchasing another menswear business in the city and installing me as its manager. However it wasn’t the best of moves so four years later we sold the premises and I went out on the road representing and number of clothing manufacturers as their agent selling to other clothing retailers. I spend a happy five years learning the many different ways people ran their menswear businesses. I learnt about manufacturing processes, cloths and fabrics and how to run successful and unsuccessful businesses. After a stint with Fred Perry, in 1990 I decided to return to retail and opened my own business in Royal Leamington Spa.
It very quickly became apparent to me that to survive I needed to specialise and so turned my attention to the big and tall size menswear trade. I was one of the first to do so, which meant that I needed to work closely with manufacturers to get the fit styles and cut correct. Together we grew the trade and encouraged other manufacturer and brands to increase their size range and helped them get their specifications right.
My company, Large and Tall Menswear, was one of the first to have a website and again one of the first to have an ecommerce site. A move which has helped us grow during some very hard times on the high street.
The rag trade is a clean, friendly industry that, along with other retailers, has been abused and neglected by successive governments of all colours. Sadly both national and local government sees the high street, which employees over 3 million people, as a cash cow and continues to hit it hard with high business rates, taxes and on-street parking charges.
Using the knowledge I have gained over the years, three years ago I set up a new company www.spawebdesign.co.uk building websites. This business is now consuming much of my time so after a life time in the rag trade it’s time for me to hang up my tape measure, say good bye and head for pastures new. Good bye and thank you for support. After 42 years I am looking forward to have Saturdays off!