5 Minutes With Simon Carter, Founder & CEO, Simon Carter

This summer, Simon Carter will be extending his reach beyond fashion retail by becoming the main sponsor of the WCF Gold Croquet World Championship, set to be hosted in England for the first time in eight years. A keen croquet player himself, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to catch up with the menswear connoisseur.

Simon Carter

Congrats on sponsorship deal with WCF Gold Croquet World Championship!

Thank you. I’m very happy to be the headline sponsor for a game I enjoy so much. Croquet is a very British sport and I am seen very much a British heritage brand so the synergy makes sense.

I hear you have a history with croquet yourself.

Yes. I played as a child on our family back lawn and then found a couple of clubs in South London. I then began to play seriously and finally played for England eight years ago.

Would you say the sport has inspired some of your fashion designs?

I like the imagery and iconography of the sport, particularly vintage designs.

Tell me a bit about the Simon Carter story.

I founded the brand in 1985 as a hobby that then grew out of control. I opened my first store just off Regent Street in 1996.

How much as Simon Carter grown since it was founded?

The brand is now sold worldwide and we have five UK stores with wholesale stockists including Liberty and Harvy Nichols. We have 12 concessions within House of Fraser and by the end of June I will have nine Simon Carter stores in India.

“I founded Simon Carter in 1985 as a hobby that then grew out of control.”

What gap in the UK retail market does Simon Carter strive to address?

My customer really understands good design and quality and isn’t afraid of colour and boldness. The age range is surprisingly wide from 20 to 70. It’s about a shared aesthetic.

How is Simon Carter’s business model different to other fashion retailers?

All my stores have a very individual atmosphere and style. I personally choose the decorative accessories and antiques. My managers are encouraged to take ownership of their branch and in doing so, we offer a genuine and passion-led experience for the customers.

What’s in store for Simon Carter for the rest of 2019?

My Indian store programme continues to expand and I hope to have 15 stores by the end of the year. We’ve also introduced new product catagories such as swimwear and these are performing well.

How is Simon Carter addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry as a whole?

I am a firm believer in the future of retail. Right now, there’s never been more opportunities for small retail to succeed. Landlords are much more flexible, and the consumer is seeking out and embracing “local” in a way we haven’t seen for decades. Big is seen as bad, but if you have an authentic voice with relevant product, the future is good.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector?

Sameness, and patronising the consumer. It’s not enough to tick the box that says “experience” – you have to believe and over deliver it. One of the reasons the big department stores are struggling is for that reason.

Naturally, Brexit is hanging over all our heads like some dark menacing storm cloud so that doesn’t help.

Describe your role and responsibilities at Simon Carter.

Increasingly, my role is around custodian and developer of the brand. India is a good example. I am working with the biggest retail and brand operator there to really push the Simon Carter brand across the country.

“I am a firm believer in the future of retail.”

In Japan, I have just launched a successful formal wear license. Making sure that the global message is consistent is a major factor in what I do.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Simon Carter.

I studied immunology at university so I would say that my career path has been non linear. But my first taste of retail came when I had a part time job in a shop on the King’s Road in the 1980s while I was at university.

How has your previous experience aided your current job? There’s not much call for immunology in retail! But I think my early experiences of working on the shop floor have helped me to understand how people shop.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I think it would juggling all the different aspects of the business in my head. As a fairly small business I am still involved in most aspects so after I finish my last emails of the day from home at 10.30pm I am pretty exhausted.

And the most rewarding?

I went to Mumbai for the Simon Carter store opening there at the end of 2017. I was so impressed by how amazing it looked and the enthusiasm of the staff in this very large store entirely filled with my products. That was a big moment.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

Clear message; simply conveyed; passion; individuality.

Any last words?

Never follow your parent’s career advice. Mine thought I should be a doctor!

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