From humble beginnings in the West Midlands in 2001, Luke 1977 has developed into a leading contemporary menswear brand with a global following. Here, RLI sits down with Managing Director Simon Poole to speak about how the company has evolved in its two decades of operation and what the future has in store.
Founded by Luke Roper, the company is a practical interpretation on modern menswear and draws strong influence from its native Birmingham. The idea behind the business is to put a fashionable twist on any men’s garment but without over designing to retain a contemporary masculine style.
The brand currently operates 14 UK stores that are situated all across the British Isles and its products are also available at multiple stockists around the country.
“The shifting sands of bricks-and-mortar retail over the past few years has meant we have been continually reviewing our strategy as it is continually changing,” explains Simon Poole, Managing Director of Luke 1977. “Despite Covid-19 halting our projects for a time, we are still pressing on with new sites as we look to expand and grow the brand.”
Throughout the pandemic the business received fantastic support from the British Chancellor and they used the government support to ensure they did not lose key staff. During these difficult months, Luke 1977 took the opportunity to conduct a top to bottom review of costs whilst reviewing its hours of opening, payroll, staff support and made the necessary changes to adapt to the new environment the retail world found itself in.
The latest store launch for the brand was its site at the recently opened Designer Outlet West Midlands in Cannock. “Aside from this, the reality is that we have to focus on the stores we have until we understand the new normal and how the high street will evolve. We do have a couple of pop-ups in final negotiations, which will enable us to test the water before committing to anything more long term,” Poole comments.
Outside of the UK, they have a trial concession partnership with Alshaya Group in the Middle East. This started in Kuwait and due to the success of this first store they are rolling out another two shop-in-shops and five further trial sites which they hope will develop into full concessions and eventually standalone stores.
Discussing new products and initiatives, Poole explains that the brand is continually evolving to market changes, and the moves happening in the wider retail market to more sustainable products has led them to develop a new teams sports range, of which the whole collection is made from fully recycled fabrics and packaging with greener roots.
They also have a new lifestyle concept store designed and ready to rollout in the right locations. They had planned to launch this pre-Covid in a new development in Bicester UK, but they are aiming to put it live when things get back to normal and it consists of a mix of music, sports, drinks, lifestyle and clothes.
“Across social media platforms we have focused our efforts on sportspeople and teams primarily, advertising and being the clothing partner to soccer teams like Aston Villa, we feel that this works better for our men’s sports fashion arena. We will be launching our women’s performance range in late autumn/winter this year and we will delve into influencers again to promote both the men’s and women’s ranges,” says Poole.
In the past three years, it is the digital side of the business that has had the biggest investment and everything is now built around the customer experience and journey. Their focus has been on simplifying the journey and ensuring product is showcased and described better.
Poole feels that customers have shown loyalty to the brand in its 20 years because they offer an exclusive experience for an inclusive audience and their allegiances with sporting teams has brought them closer to certain clubs and their followers. The founder Luke Roper remains passionately committed to delivering the very best clothing at the very best price and this will not change in the future.
“We continue to build a brand from strong foundations that our next generation will be proud to take on to an even bigger and better audience, it is an old fashioned ideal for a new world,” he explains.
As we come to the end of our time with Simon, we ask him what is the greatest challenge facing the company?
“Every year brings new challenges, recently it feels like you overcome one obstacle and a new one pops its head up and takes you down another road, such as the move from bricks-and-mortar, the demise of traditional wholesale B2B, the way to compete with the huge multiples that dominate the UK market, the growth of online, while we have the strength, drive and belief and we know what has passed and how we did it. We have now invested in a younger skilled team that brings new eyes and new ideas for how we continue to do this going forward,” Poole concludes.