Clothing company Barbour has delved into the past to secure high street success by opening its first store showcasing its motorbiking heritage.
The South Tyneside-based firm, best loved by rock stars, royalty and farmers for its iconic waxed products, will unveil its first Barbour International store in London’s Piccadilly, focusing on Barbour International – a range inspired by its less well-known links to motorcycling.
The brand was introduced into its product range in 1936 by founder John Barbour’s grandson, Duncan Barbour, a keen motorcyclist.
The original International was a one-piece suit in a dark green wax cotton, developed specifically for the 1936 International Six Day Trials event.
It became so popular that it was worn by almost every British team right up until 1977, and the company’s clothes were also bought by police units in the 1930s.
The range has remained in production throughout the firm’s history but it has now received a makeover, resulting in the Barbour International Authentic Motorcycle Range, which the firm hopes will appeal to tourists shopping for traditional brands in the capital.
The company is taking 3,000 sq ft of prime space in Piccadilly’s Gateway development under a 10-year lease, and the store is due to open next month.
Ian Beattie, national sales and marketing director, Barbour said: “We are delighted to be opening our first Barbour International store in St James’s Gateway.
“Motorcycle clothing first appeared in our brochures in the early 1900s and is just as important to Barbour’s heritage as country clothing.
“With this new dedicated store we will be able to showcase our fashion collections inspired by the halcyon days of motorcycling.”
The opening comes weeks after the firm unveiled a 12% lift in sales to £136.9m last year and a pre-tax profits rise 42% to £24.3m, fuelled by growth in Scandinavia and the US who have taken to the firm’s expanded offering.
The firm broadened its offering in 2000 to include a whole wardrobe range of clothes and accessories, including knitwear, shirts, trousers and footwear, all of which are selling well across the globe.
Looking ahead, the company said it plans further growth in retail in its major markets of the UK, US and Germany.
UK turnover accounted for more than half of revenues topping £79.2m, a rise of £12m and 17.9% year-on-year, and overseas sales also rose by 6.2% to £57.8m, but the firm now intends to grow its export sales – currently accounting for 42% of turnover – through an assault on the Asian markets over the next five years, part of its mission to become a global lifestyle brand.
The company said it has a strong network of wholesalers throughout Asia but it now aims to grow revenues significantly, a strategy which began last August through the opening of its first store in Tokyo.
Finance director Brenda Goodman-Bell added: “Wax is our unique product and we are introducing this in Asia, where the Made in Britain badge is very valuable.”
The firm said in its annual accounts that its South Shields facility is soon set to expand to increase capacity to offer its Made in Britain products to new distribution channels.