Whilst it might seem trivial at this point in time, we have decided to continue with our Retail Around the World articles. If not to remind ourselves and our customers of our beautiful stores and wonderful staff, but to convey a message that it is people who make our business great, in the same vein that it is people who have the choice to make our world safe again. Look around you, be thankful and please continue to stay at home to safe guard our world health services, minimising the impact of this awful virus gripping the world.
When did you join Crockett & Jones?
Ben: Before I joined C&J, I was living in Spain – I was out there with my family through my teenager years. Then, when I turned 18, I was offered the opportunity to return to the UK and work with Crockett & Jones. I didn’t know much about shoes, but I was curious and keen to learn. During the winter in Spain, it goes very quiet, and I wanted to make a move back to London. I ended up working in Jermyn Street for a while, then transferred to the Royal Exchange, nine years later, here I am managing the store!
Emily: I worked for a couple of other shoe brands before I came here, but nothing as luxurious as C&J. My previous roles were outside of London too, and the change to move to a position in London really appealed to me. I applied for a sales role and joined the company about two years ago.
What was it like learning all the shoemaking lingo?
Ben: It was a lot to take-in at first as our product is more than just a pair of shoes, I fell in love with the selling environment which made it all the more enjoyable from the beginning. I’d take the catalogue home with me and flick through it to pick things up. Now, I really enjoy it when customers come in and ask “what’s a 341 or 325 last?” and you get to explain the different lasts, styles and complexities, such as our company history. It’s good fun.
Emily: When I joined, the training was so thorough that I found my feet pretty quickly. The previous store I worked at was all about volume; it was fast-paced and the focus was very much about getting shoes out the door. At Crockett & Jones, there is far more emphasis on offering a high level of service to our customers, and we really take our time to get to know them and look after them – it’s a completely different ball game, and far more interesting.
Is there such a thing as an average day at the Royal Exchange?
Ben: Generally, each day is quite straight-forward in our Royal Exchange store, because our clients tend to be regulars; I know the majority of our customers on a first-name basis. We have a lot of professionals from the surrounding area who rely on C&J for their work shoes, and you get to meet lots of businessmen who fly in from all over the world. We often find that customers will block out an hour in their calendar, even in a 24-hour trip, just to visit the store.
Emily: When customers come in today, they usually know what they want from previous research. We very rarely get customer who just want a browse. Plus, we get a lot of customers after classic City styles like Hallam, Alex, and Connaught, which helps us to keep things running smoothly most of the time. We are in a great location for that customer who wants a product that is well-made and fit for purpose.
And dress codes are changing in the city, right?
Ben: When I started in 2010 everyone wore blue suits, grey suits, black shoes, white shirts and plain ties. That was it. Now, a lot of our customers live on a ‘dress for your day’ basis, so one day they’ll wear a sharp suit for a client meeting, the next day they’ll come to the office in an open-collar shirt and chinos. So, we sell more casual styles these days than we used to; cross-over styles like loafers and monk shoes are extremely popular at the moment; they’re that bit less traditional than Oxfords and our collection can easily cater for this smart-casual style.
Emily: I worked in our Canary Wharf store before I moved to the Royal Exchange, and the customers were very similar; we get a lot of clients after smart-casual shoes that work well in their offices and on the weekends – our clients love our exclusive 'City' rubber soles too – they’re so practical. I’ve got leather soles on my own C&Js, and I keep meaning to send them to the factory to get rubber City Soles soles put on!
What’s your take on the City dress code becoming less formal, then?
Ben: I think it’s a shame, personally. I used to enjoy seeing everyone looking the part. We see a lot of professionals wandering into their offices in trainers now. The flip-side is, we've never sold more Suede and Grain shoes, a lot of our customer will never wear sneakers or trainers in a working environment – 10 years ago we’d sell black Oxfords and nothing else, but our customers seem to be enjoying a bit more variety and freedom in their wardrobes these days.
Emily: It’s strange that no one really dresses up any more in the City – especially when this part of town is famous for it. I guess things change, but it is a shame.
Any standout stories from your time in the shop?
Ben: I’ve got one customer who I’ve known for years and years, and he remembers that when he first wore a pair of Cavendish tassel loafers into work, his boss cut off the tassels and told him “you’re not wearing them in my office.” I’d be fuming. I guess that shows just how much dress codes have changed over here – nowadays everyone in the City has a pair of tassel loafers, many of them are from C&J...
And do you have any favourite local haunts that you go to?
Emily: The Ned is huge now – a lot of our clients go to the Ned after work. The Jamaica Inn is a great old-school pub too. Thursday and Friday nights are good for a drink around here, there's no shortage of bars.
Favourite pair of shoes?
Ben: I love Chelsea boots; the Chelsea 5 or Chelsea 8. I’ve got five pairs of Cavendish too – all with the tassels still on! Pembroke in Dark Brown Scotch Grain is my absolute favourite. I think they’re such a great compromise between smart and casual.
Emily: In the women’s collection, I love the Rachel Chelsea boots in Black Wax Calf; they’re so versatile and they’ve really softened up through wear. The Carly in Polo Brown Calf Suede loafers are great with black trousers too.
Thanks guys, we hope to see things return to normal as soon as possible, so you can get back to checking up on your customers!