Hi Julian, Rhona – please tell us about yourselves.
I had just returned from Germany working as a Barbour agent when I met Rhona who was a fashion lecturer at Newcastle College. After knowing each other for only three weeks we set up a ladieswear store in Jesmond, a wealthy suburb just outside of Newcastle. Over thirty years later the business is still thriving with seven stores across the north of England as well as our website.
Jules B has been around for more than 30 years, how do you manage to stay relevant in the ever evolving fashion industry?
We travel all over the world meeting new designers, brands and artisans creating new and unique menswear and ladieswear. We make sure that we not only stock firm favourites such as Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith but also look to smaller family run labels and new upcoming names to keep our collections new and exciting for the customer.
Working with any busy partner can be tricky – how do you keep the balance working as husband and wife?
Rhona oversees the ladies side of the business while I focus on menswear. We have been able to achieve what we have because we work so well together, we have a great relationship both in business and personally; I always say Rhona’s strengths are my weaknesses.
You’ve been around for such a long time and I’m sure you’ve had many highlights over the years, is there any one highlight that stands out in particular?
Watching brands grow. We always strive to give our customers the best products for their money and although some of our biggest names have a great following, we have watched some of the more niche, lesser known brands grow to be some of our best sellers.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome, being an independent brand?
The fashion industry is a changeable market and as an independent we always have to invest cautiously. In any business you have to step outside of your comfort zone and take risks but we have recruited a young team who share our work ethic and hunger to drive business forward.
What top tip would you like to share with young entrepreneurs wanting to get into the fashion industry?
Trust your gut!
You’ve enjoyed so much success over the years and you have the awards to prove it but what’s your ultimate measure of success?
Watching the company grow from a singular store in Jesmond to a website that sells internationally is a great achievement but there is always room to grow and expand. We are always looking to improve and develop the business for our customers.
You’ve recently made the leap in to the digital world through your app – what’s been the response from your customer base? Has it been a successful cross over?
The app gets more popular each day, we have found that it’s a great way to keep customers up to date with new offers and exclusive deals. The app has also allowed us to link the online platform with our bricks and mortar stores as users can now search products by scanning an item’s barcode.
What’s next for Jules B?
We’re always growing with the aim of becoming a bigger and better independent fashion retailer, and we’ll be launching our brand new website in the autumn.