December 6h, 2010
Greenwoods Menswear was originally established as a hat shop in 1860 in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Towards the end of the 19th century, founder James Greenwood decided to explore different areas of the market by trialing some other menswear items in store. This proved to be a very lucrative decision and marked the beginning of Greenwoods as a men’s retailer. The company remained in the hands of the Greenwood family until 1995, when it was bought by a businessman associated with the family. It then changed hands again in January 2009 when ownership passed to Hong Kong based company, Pacific Trend Investment, who introduced an experienced and respected new management team.
The Chief Executive of the company, Wayne Zhu, relocated from New York to the Greenwoods UK based head office in Bradford to help the company drive forward with its ambitious plans. “This shows the level of commitment and investment that our parent company is backing us with,” says Neil Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of Greenwoods Menswear. Also on board are Chief Financial Officer, Martin Muffitt and Information Director Karen Wang. Another key member of the team is recent recruit Jason Denmark, who has taken up the role as Director of Retail Operations. He has a glittering portfolio having worked for Sir Phillip Green for 15 years and extensively in UK retailing. “Jason has come in to really help us to launch and develop new retailing opportunities,” says Roberts.
Originally, Greenwoods catered solely for the classical man. “It was never a young, trendy outfitter,” says Roberts. Today, Greenwoods Menswear still upholds this classical reputation with its heritage and reputation for personal service. However, it is also looking to capture a younger clientele through its 1860 brand, which is a hire service for grooms, as well as offering evening wear, morning wear, tailcoats, dinner suits and a whole range of complementary accessories.
“Young men that are getting married are coming into our shops and also younger page boys, and we are kitting them out with their wedding outfits,” says Roberts.
“It is very fashionable at the moment to wear morning suits for weddings because they are timeless. This is where we can capture a younger audience and cater for them. 1860 is a vehicle which will allow us to do this.”
Accounting for 20 percent of the company’s revenue, the 1860 brand has raised the profile of Greenwoods Menswear, which is now acknowledged as being the second largest formal garment hirer in the country. The company has recently introduced a slim-fit range of suits, shirts, ties and shoes under the 1860 brand, which has proved to be hugely successful with the younger market. “We are just in the process of trialing our slim-fit suits,” explains Roberts. “They are tremendously popular and as a result we are going to roll that out to many more stores around the country.”
“1860 is bringing the younger customer into our stores and we are now starting to cater for them in terms of the product they can buy.”
Despite plans to extend its product range to a younger audience, Greenwoods is not losing touch with its loyal and older clientele, who remain a key focus. Roberts explains the company’s plans to separate the older and younger products by having “a shop within a shop”. “We do not want customers to come in to our stores and feel like we do not cater for their age group. As with its specific designated areas dedicated to the growing Mansize brand, which caters for the larger gentleman, we are looking to create almost a department within the shop where we have a younger item.”
There are currently 79 Greenwoods Menswear stores across the UK. Change is already underway with the company continuing to improve and upgrade the image of its stores. This significant investment programme is being funded by Greenwoods parent company, Pacific Trend investment. “Our parent company is tremendously supportive financially in helping us to obtain our business goal. They are very much behind our plans, and only last month they invested several hundred thousand pounds to launch a new transactional website, along with a state of the art EPOS software and retail management system developed by Futura,” says Roberts. Information Director Karen Wang explained that “this partnership with Futura would create additional revenue and enhance working capital by having the right stock in the right place at the right time”.
It is an exciting time for Greenwoods Menswear. “We acknowledge that some of our shops visually need enhancing. They have been underinvested for some years,” explains Roberts. Refurbishment of a pilot scheme at the Blackpool branch was recently completed, which has been rebranded Greenwoods High Street Outlet. “We have modernised the store. It has a much fresher fascia, and within the shop we are getting a much cleaner look with oak effect floors being laid in place of the old-fashioned highly patterned carpet.”
It is no surprise the retail industry has been hit hard by the financial crisis. However, where many businesses have been crippled by the current economic downturn, Greenwoods has come out on top, celebrating its 150th year anniversary last month. Roberts says: “Trading in difficult times, we continue to identify further potential retail acquisitions and market opportunities, including the rapidly developing B2B revenue stream. We feel like now is the time to exploit the opportunity and strike out.”
Source: Business Review Europe