So far in this series we’ve focused on smaller businesses, but we can’t ignore our admiration for White Stuff.
Of course, like most mega-successful brands, White Stuff was once, itself, a small, two-man operation – more on that later.
White Stuff is, for us, the perfect example of how to grow your brand into a High Street name without compromising your values or your individuality.
Every branch (and there are now 85) has its own personality – the York, Nottingham and Belfast stores even have their own cinema and some stores have their own sweetshop – with tasty treats available in return for a charity donation.
Charity’s a big part of White Stuff’s philosophy. It has a charitable foundation to help disadvantaged children, to which 1% of the company’s profits are donated (and when you know that shirts cost about £40 each, it doesn’t take long to work out that that is a lot of money…) and the individual stores all have mini campaigns and fund-raising schemes to raise extra cash.
|They pre-date Chris Moyles. Which can only be a good thing|
But perhaps what we like most about White Stuff is the little things – you can take dogs (or any other pets) into the shop, there are free cold drinks in the summer and hot drinks in winter, there’s always somewhere for me to sit down while Laura’s trying on armfuls of clothes (I think it’s too expensive, but then, I am a tightwad) and the stores are decorated with the kind of top quality vintage accessories that make us go a bit funny. The buying teams must spend days and days sourcing the suitcases, radios, cameras and signs. It’s not the sort of stuff you can uncover on a regular basis at your local car boot.
On top of all this, they produce classic but cool clothes, always seem to be bang on trend and their promotional literature and photography is probably the best around.
White Stuff should be an inspiration to all small businesses (and big businesses, too – why can’t they all put out free tea and coffee?). It started in 1985, when friends Sean Thomas and George Treves set up a small business selling ‘Boys from the White Stuff’ sweatshirts in the bars of swanky French ski resort Val d’Isere. It grew from there, with a few shops and an expansion of the range, until, in 2004, the chaps took the canny step of hiring ex-Miss Selfridge brand director Sally Bailey, who helped transform White Stuff from a small skiwear operation into the fashion brand we know today.