Joshua Mark Williams on the importance that needs to be placed on heritage

Name:

Joshua Mark Williams

Role and company:

Director of TailsClothing.com

Employee numbers:

5, including our freelance creative team.

Growth forecast for the next three years:

Over the next three years, we expect an annual growth rate of 20-25 per cent.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

Tails Clothing is a classic menswear retailer, distinctive for the importance we place on heritage. We’re careful only to source garments from traditional artisan producers, many of whom are in their third or fourth generation. Our winter jumpers, for instance, are stocked from a Norwegian manufacturer run by its founder’s grandchildren.

What’s the big vision for your business?

We’re a family business too – my father founded Tails in 1979 as a stall in a Cardiff antique market, and I grew up with the business.

More than thirty years later, our vision is to become the online destination of choice for well-dressed and discerning men, without losing our family feel.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

Currently, our sales are 55 per cent British and 15 per cent European, with 30 per cent going to the rest of the world. Our stock is held centrally, and shipped from the UK. In future, our dream is to build a loyal following in all of the world’s major cities.

From Breton shirts to espadrilles from the Basque country, many of our heritage items are imported from continental Europe. We pay our overseas suppliers using UKForex, who also manage our foreign exchange risk. Limiting our exposure to unanticipated changes in exchange rates is critical, as imports are at the heart of our business – we’ve found the service they provide makes a real difference to our bottom line.

What makes you mad in business today?

I feel there’s a lack of support in today’s society for young people who want to start up their own businesses. A lack of confidence in young people ensues as a result. Overall, there is still an inclination towards the ‘proper job’.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Online retail is changing very fast as technology evolves. Menswear, however, has a natural aversion to change and is rooted in classic styles rather than fast fashions, so the future remains uncertain.

We will need to be sensitive to the location of new markets. Currently, we are seeing increased sales to Russia and the Middle East. This bodes well for us, as both markets have a taste for heritage fashion.

How would others describe your leadership style?

I try to have a mentor-leadership style. I enjoy taking in fashion and textiles students from nearby universities – we offer internships on a regular basis, and I frequently go to local universities to speak to the students. I want to encourage more of a commercial and industry perspective in the next generation of undergraduates.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

Probably my mountaineering gear. It’s only an extravagance when you’re buying it, though – not when you’re up a mountain using it!

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

The government’s role should be to educate and facilitate. Fund education opportunities, but let experts provide them – encourage mutual arrangements between business and academia and fully subsidise apprenticeships within small businesses.

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