UK’s largest fine shirt retailer Charles Tyrwhitt is dressed for success

UK’s largest fine shirt retailer Charles Tyrwhitt is dressed for success

Having celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, Charles Tyrwhitt (CT) is recognised as the UK’s largest purveyor of fine shirts...

Charles Tyrwhitt has a clearly defined purpose: “Making it easy for men to dress well” – and that is helping to drive expansion. “The business is growing and we are on a very clear growth path. It’s one of our core values – growth matters,” reveals Pete Lemon, Director of Distribution.

“It’s our plan to open a number of stores before Christmas, taking us to over 30 stores in the UK and the US, with one in Paris. Our core territories were the UK, USA, Germany and Australia but we’ve recently launched websites in France and in Canada and our Euro website in Ireland, launched a couple of years ago, has developed a very successful market there too.”

During the seven years with the company Lemon has, with his small team of managers, developed the DC operations at the 130,000 sq ft warehouse in Milton Keynes, where they moved four years ago, into a highly efficient and cost-effective facility servicing the company’s online orders worldwide and replenishing stock to all UK stores.

He explains that key to its success has been to have plans of what it will look like in 10 years’ time and then build towards that, refining to meet changing business needs. “We’d only been open in Milton Keynes for a year when a business change meant we needed to build a 30,000 sq ft racking structure to increase our stock holding capacity. Apex are also based in Milton Keynes and were able to design, manufacture and install the entire system in three months, working with other trades to deliver on time and budget. It was a tricky build as the operation had to be able to carry on in a safe environment whilst the construction was completed in two stages.”

CT has built a network of reliable partners and suppliers, like Apex, to help the company not only expand its global footprint and provide the highest standards of service to customers, but also enable it to create efficiencies within its operations.

Robust design

Such partnerships are key to the running of CT and have enabled the company to achieve recognition from some of the most prestigious sources – the firm won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2016. Another such supplier is Knapp; “I prefer the term mechanisation to automation and Knapp understood what we wanted and needed. They came up with a really simple, robust design – not automation for automation’s sake. These are really sensibly designed, well-engineered solutions and they absolutely meet our needs,” states Lemon.

The Knapp-designed conveyor systems have also improved efficiency within the operations at CT. “Our dispatch department four years ago had no mechanisation,” Lemon continues. “In a typical non-peak day we sort 7,500 orders and that used to take seven or eight people. Now it’s just two, which shows the benefit that you can accrue by just getting the design right.”

It’s not just in CT’s distribution warehouse that the company has entered partnerships to become more efficient and deliver a better service to its valued customers. “Seko has been our freight forwarding partner for a number of years,” explains Lemon. “They were recently awarded the contract to run our third party US distribution centre giving them responsibility for the management of our retail stock holding and replenishment into our US stores. Seko are a company who will adapt and modify what they do to best suit the needs of Charles Tyrwhitt.

“Another key partner is OCS Worldwide, a parcel consolidator shipping goods all over the world. We’ve known and worked with them for many years. This relationship is mutually beneficial as OCS has grown with us, taken on other clients on the back of our business and so the services, costs and value for all of us can be maximised. They now carry all of our parcels to the United States, our biggest growth market, Australia and many of our ROW orders, leveraging their relationships with other shipping companies like Royal Mail where they can get the maximum discounts available. A great company led by great people,” Lemon adds.

Domestically, CT has partnered with Hermes to ensure delivery of its products to customer in the UK. “The service level that Hermes provide is extremely good value for money. We have one of the Hermes team onsite every day in Milton Keynes to follow up any delivery issues that arise and hold monthly service reviews with our account manager. The relationship has developed, we’ve been working with them now for four years as our primary UK carrier, and they have now taken on the majority of or UK next day service parcels too. At peak times, they react well to what we need, and are developing their business too, offering the same services, such as in-flight options, as some of the more expensive carriers.”

Of course, an important part of CT’s relationships with its suppliers is trust. “You have to pick the right ones and you have to trust them to do their job and I think that’s true of all of those,” remarks Lemon. “Specify the service and let them do their job, and when they let you down you have to have the relationship with them that means that you can pick up the phone and have the frank conversation: ‘You’ve let our customer down, now let’s fix this’.”

See also:

Employee engagement

A little over 1,000 people work across the business at CT and a fifth of those work within Lemon’s operations. “I would think that probably 50% of my time is spent dealing with people matters and those are not negative things,” explains Lemon. “I’m actually dealing with things that are looking to engage with people in the right way and to encourage people to enjoy working here, to want to work here and that’s absolutely key. It’s about recruiting the right people in the first place and then retaining them through positive engagement, personal development and reward. Our turnover is less than 3% per annum, which is great.”

Indeed, people form one of the four core values at CT. “The first one of those is Quality with Value Matters and that applies to everything about our product,” Lemon advises. “The second one is that Customers Matter. We’re nothing without our customers so they have to be right up there. People Matter is next, and that’s about treating our colleagues with respect and dignity, and our final value is Growth Matters. We’re not in business to stagnate and whilst all businesses go through ups and downs we are very much on an up – we’ll go that extra mile, we’ll set realistic goals and take pride in beating them.”

Quirky and fun

Alongside the core values, CT also has four supporting behaviours. “We are Simple and Straightforward for our customers and internally, trying to avoid bureaucracy wherever we can. We’re Cost Conscious and Modest. We’re not a very ostentatious company, we’re not extravagant, we print in black and white, not in colour. It's simple things like that, because why be frivolous and spend money on things that don’t add value to the business or indeed make it easy for men to dress well?” Lemon remarks. 

“We Believe in Teamwork – not operating in silos, working across departments. Finally, we are Quirky and Fun. We have a book that describes these values and each one is depicted as a dog dressed in Charles Tyrwhitt clothing in a very fun and quirky way, and we do that in the way we communicate internally, the way we present things and the way we engage with our customers too.”

Of course, all of this is underpinned by the drive to make it easy for men to dress well. “The great thing about that phrase is that it doesn’t matter where you work in this business. If you think ‘Is what I am doing making it easy for men to dress well?’, whether that be from designing the product in the first place, to the care you take in making sure it’s exactly the right garment going out and that it arrives on time when the customer expects it, that’s all about making it easier for men to dress well,” Lemon observes. “You can apply it anywhere in the business, so that is definitely something that underpins the company.” With such measures in place to ensure quality throughout the operations at CT, the company seems well-suited to its current growth trajectory.

Our Partners
OCS Worldwide
View profile
SEKO Logistics
View profile