T.M. Lewin is a renowned retailer of mens and womenswear, a business which was first established in 1898. In 2011, they appointed Mark Dunhill, the then CEO of jeweller Fabergé, to the role of International Director who is today responsible for delivering T.M. Lewin’s ambition to become the leading specialist business wear retailer in every market that they enter. We caught up with him to find out more.
LM: T.M. Lewin has opened their second store in Australia. Why was Melbourne chosen as a location to stock womenswear for the first time?
MD: We have been waiting until our womenswear collection was ready for the Australian market before we launched it in store. We have been hugely encouraged by the number of enquiries we have received from women in both Sydney and Melbourne. The response from women who have discovered our new collection in our Collins St store since we opened has been exciting. We believe there is a great opportunity for T.M. Lewin by offering a comprehensive, flexible and stylish workwear collection to women embracing suits, dresses, shirts and blouses as well as knitwear. We wanted our collection to go beyond the workplace by providing outfits that our female customers can wear both at the office and at Friday drinks or dinner.
LM: Who do you view as your principal competition in the territory now that you are also targeting female buyers?
MD: There are a number of retailers who include womenswear in their stores with some housing a limited selection of clothing which meets the needs of the working female. However, we don’t see anybody providing a one-stop-shop providing a stylish and comprehensive business wear wardrobe for men and women, with the range of choice in fits, fabrics and designs that can be found at T.M. Lewin.
LM: What are the core USPs of the T.M. Lewin brand?
MD: T.M. Lewin stands for understated and stylish businesswear for men and women. We offer clothing of the highest quality at prices that represent unrivalled value, with a variety of styles and fits unmatched in the market. We aim to deliver the highest level of personalised service in stores that are both welcoming and luxurious.
LM: Which have been your most profitable markets to date and what are your ambitions for T.M. Lewin during the next 5 years?
MD: Australia is our most profitable market outside the UK and we are excited by the opportunity to grow this business substantially over the next five years. During this period, we expect our international business to become larger than that of our home market, with shops across all continents supported by a thriving e-commerce business.
LM: How many stores do you intend to open by the end of the year?
MD: We are aiming to double the number of T.M. Lewin stores outside the UK this year, bringing the total to around 50.
LM: How do you see the luxury fashion sector performing in 2013?
MD: Since the start of the great financial crisis, we have seen luxury consumers become more discerning: they continue to spend, but more selectively. As a consequence, those luxury fashion brands with a clearly defined point of view, strong design ethos and tightly controlled distribution continue to thrive. The more peripheral second tier brands however, have struggled. So in short, the strong have been getting stronger while the weak get weaker. I don’t see any reason why this trend will change in 2013.
LM: And about you Mark, you previously assumed the role of CEO of Fabergé. What were the main challenges associated with this position?
MD: This was a hugely rewarding opportunity to restore a famous but neglected brand to its former glory, as one of the most revered jewellers on the planet. It was a fascinating repositioning exercise that required clarity of vision and focus on the one hand combined with the ability to identify and nurture the creative talent on the other.
LM: Who has been the most inspirational person during your career to date?
MD: I had a great boss while working for Alfred Dunhill in Asia in the late 90’s. He was an excellent mentor. He defined a clear set of objectives, provided advice and guidance when requested while giving me a great deal of autonomy.
LM: Which brands to regularly keep an eye on from personal interest?
MD: Retail has always been a dynamic business environment, but never more than today: as e-commerce transforms the way we shop and technology reduces the time required to get new products in front of our customers via a screen or in a store anywhere in the world, the future belongs to those who have the imagination to capitalise on these changes rather than fight against them. Apple has been a trailblazer in terms of forward-thinking both in terms of the customer experience and supply chain management. Another retailer that has caught my attention recently is Anthropologie whose stores are an absolute delight to browse and explore.
LM: Is there a typical day in your job as International Director?
MD: In short, no there isn’t!! This is what makes my job so much fun.