BLM recently sat down with Mark Brewer, Director at John Anthony (Swindon) Ltd, to talk about how they established themselves as a fashion brand in the South West, the challenges facing the retail sector, and how Barclays have helped the business.
Can you give me an overview of the company?
John Anthony was first established in 1979, the founders, John and Joe, were involved in the hospitality industry but wanted to be more involved in fashion. They established their first shop in Swindon by providing men’s fashion at a reasonable price that was a cut above the usual run-of-the-mill high street clothing that was available at the time. From there on they embarked on an expansion process over a number of years, culminating in five shops located in the South West.
How has the company changed over the last 40 years?
In the first instance, the ownership has changed from the previous owners, with an agreed internal take-over with three of the original employees that had worked in different parts of the company. These three individuals were selected for their experience and dedication. We are also now one of the largest independent men’s fashion companies in the UK.
The internet has also been a major player in the evolution in the company, whereby 15% of our sales are achieved online.
How have you established yourself in the South West and what sets you apart from other outlets?
Our initial store was in Swindon and then expanded to Bristol, followed by stores in Bath, Bournemouth and Southampton. We felt the towns in question had a need for our take on fashion and had the capacity to sell the brands we had. With this and our outstanding customer service, we have achieved repeat sales and have a customer loyalty card that offers rewards, this gives us a lot of repeat order sales with a very loyal customer base. We also endeavour to be part of the community where we have stores, by supporting charities and other good causes.
What are the main challenges facing the retail sector?
Brexit has taken its toll on the retail industry. Due to the political uncertainty it has been very difficult to plan any expansion of the business – we don’t know if tariffs will be put in place or whether the country could face a recession. With a number of our brands coming from Europe, the Euro exchange rate has a big part to play in this as well. Also, business rates and rents need to be addressed as they have become a burden on the high street for small and medium sized companies.
The internet has also affected our footfall into our bricks and mortar outlets – as the internet is price driven, other companies are discounting or promoting online constantly, affecting margins – so with low margins, high rates and Brexit uncertainty we have a lot of challenges to deal with going forward.
How have Barclays helped the business?
The Barclays’ team support and commercial knowledge has helped us move the company forward. They have also aided us on our day to day banking requirements, such as introducing Barclays Collect. They have introduced us to other local business owners, enabling us to share ideas and methods. We now use Barclays BARX platform and have a dedicated FX trader, who have visited our offices to provide advice. This helps us monitor and trade in Euro, which enables us to plan better and reduce some of our exposure to currency fluctuations.
Have they been a vital business partner?
Barclays provided support and guidance throughout the management buyout process. Our Barclays Relationship Director, Martin Crook’s knowledge of the business and sector greatly helped over this period. Martin and his team have continued to provide good advice on our ideas, with a commercial approach which has helped us achieve a good level of growth in a changeling retail environment.
John Anthony (Swindon) Ltd
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Call: +44 (0)1761 435833