Designer fashion retailer Scott Crowson arrives for our interview wearing a cool combo of £125 jeans, handmade Barker Shoes (£200) and a relaxed £150 cardigan….
Those who have known Scott from his early days in business will also notice his quiet confidence – the sort only gained by someone who has survived the challenges of years spent in an exciting, but fickle, industry.
Of course, in the early 1990s, interesting little nuggets, such as “we’ve just sold out of the Matchless jacket sported by Daniel Craig in the new blockbuster Spectre,” didn’t come into the conversation.
This feature interview was first published in issue 61 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine, now available to read at www.lincsbusiness.co. Subscribe to the email newsletter to receive the latest edition in your inbox this Friday.
But it isn’t simply the fact that he can do a spot of celebrity “name-dropping”, that’s got Scott where he is today. It’s the hard “can’t buy it” business knowledge he’s learned along the way.
With hindsight, he would be the first to admit that he was pretty naïve when he burst onto Lincoln’s retail scene in 1992. The former North Kesteven School pupil who left the Army after breaking his leg, then went to work at the old Nickleby’s menswear boutique in the city’s Cornhill.
“I hadn’t been there very long before I started thinking, ‘I could do this’. However, we were still in a recession. It was an uphill struggle to find the money I needed to get going,” said Scott.
Dream almost crumbles
“I visited my bank, but the managers didn’t want to know. They were feeling very nervous and I was seen as a high risk. It was also hard to get a shop unit. Landlords were looking for prospective tenants who had a trading record. I hadn’t.”
Determined to get a set of keys and kickstart his own fashion outlet, even if it was a tricky industry to break into, Scott managed to get onto the Enterprise Allowance Scheme.
“I also approached The Prince’s Trust, which gave me a grant of £550. I had the security I needed and launched Gere in a small unit in Clasketgate.”
Back then, Lincoln’s shopping offer was very different to what it is today. There was no University of Lincoln campus, no online shopping, fewer tourists and the mobile phones of the day were like bricks.
However, getting a set of shop keys was one thing, Scott then had to get his premises fitted out and stocked.
“It was really tough. I went to the cash and carry to choose some garments, then I hoped I would sell them in time for my cheque to clear. Quite honestly, my dream could have been over before it had even started!”
Scott put his personal stamp on Gere, and when the opportunity to snap-up the neighbouring outlet came along in 1998, Scott – who had been joined by Rob McGuire (now owner of Gere) – acted fast.
“We knocked the two units into one, expanded our stock and also started selling a range of suits. We built-up a core of regular customers, increased our cashflow and sales jumped 40% over a period of six months.”
The full cover interview with Scott Crowson is available to read in full here. For the latest dispatch of business news from across Lincolnshire delivered in your inbox every Friday, subscribe to the Lincolnshire Business magazine.