Sunday, 24 October 2021

Put a face to a name: Laurence Menswear

Put a face to a name: Laurence Menswear

LAURENCE MORRIS is the proprietor of the menswear shop Laurence in Duke Street, Henley, which he opened in April 2012. He was born in 1961 in Maidenhead and now lives in Twyford with his partner Louise. He likes to play golf whenever he gets time. He used to play for Henley Rugby Club and is now a sponsor and supporter.

Describe your business

Laurence is a menswear retail business.

How many people does it employ?

I have a part-time manageress and extra Saturday help.

What did you do before you started this business?

Most of my career was in the wholesale clothes business. We had a family business, manufacturing and exporting faux fur coats. I worked in that business in my twenties before joining another manufacturer in Wellingborough where I was the sales manager, selling men’s outerwear. We exported a great deal to America and Japan. I also spent five years in Cambridgeshire, designing and marketing promotional clothing for several major brands. After returning to Henley I spent a short time working in retail prior to opening my own shop.

When did you start your business?

The business was formed in December 2011 and the shop opened on March 31, 2012.

What was your objective?

Independence

What or who influenced you?

It was purely the legacy of my father being in the “rag trade” and the jobs I had.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

No. I’ve always stood on my own two feet and relied on my tenacity and drive.

How is your business doing compared with last year?

I’m happy to say that turnover is up 20 per cent.

Do you make comparisons like that on a regular basis?

Yes, constantly. I’ve learned that the peaks and troughs are pretty much the same, which enables me to plan.

How do you market your business?

It’s very important to keep your name out there so I engage in marketing activities. I outsource the use of social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter, to Absolute Social Media, a local company which does an excellent job. I use both the Henley Standard and Henley Herald for advertising and editorial. I sponsor the Henley Rugby Club. I regularly attend the Henley Business Partnership’s 3FM meetings, which is a great way of meeting other local business people.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Independence and freedom.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Buying well — thinking about what customers will want and not just buying what I like personally. Taking time off!

How important is Henley Royal Regatta to your business?

It’s the busiest time of the year for me other than Christmas. We are very fortunate to have the regatta and the Henley Festival as we get two more weeks of peak trading than other similar towns, which is a real bonus. I really embrace the fact that Henley gets such an influx of visitors for both events. It’s fortunate for me that quite a few people arrive in the town and only then realise that they are not dressed appropriately as jeans are not permissible in several of the regatta enclosures. So you can imagine chinos are in big demand! Each year I get my window painted by Charlie Cavanagh who does a brilliant job. She runs Time for Tea and she is also a very talented artist. My window always attracts a lot of attention and has become part of the regatta tradition. The weather is a bit of a factor because if it’s too hot people are not looking for, say, a jacket and if it’s raining it affects footfall. But most years we are really busy. I enjoy supporting the regatta fashion shoot organised by the Henley Standard. It provides a very good showcase for some of my clothes.

Where is your business headed?

I’m just concentrating on growing the business in order to give me several options down the line.

How important are online sales and why?

I don’t sell online but I have to compete with those that do. The way I do that is through providing exceptional customer service in order to encourage people to come into the shop — and keep coming back!

What can’t you be without at work each day?

Although I use a bookkeeper and an accountant, I use a software program called Money Outlook. For me it’s indispensable. It enables me to keep track of all my financial data, invoices, receipts and payments on a daily basis.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

Not to take anything for granted.

What advice would you offer to anybody considering starting a business?

Do your homework, do research, talk to people and look at similar businesses to see what you can learn from them. Always keep in mind that cash flow is vital.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?

I’m pleased to say I’ve not made any really big mistakes since opening my shop. However, when I was working at another company I learned the hard way not to trust venture capitalists!

What’s the secret of your success?

Passion, hard work and keeping a balance in my life with a supportive and understanding partner.

What three qualities do you think are most important to run a profitable business?

Honesty, strength of mind and being well-organised.

What’s your best piece of advice?

You only get one opportunity to make a good first impression.

How do you dress for work each day?

Smart casual. I like to show off my own merchandise.

Do you continue to study?

Not formally but I go to exhibitions to keep aware of trends.

What do you read?

Not too much — maybe a couple of books on holiday.

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