Interview: Michael Truluck, chairman of Joe Browns
Ahead of his keynote speaker address at The Retail Bulletin’s Omnichannel Futures conference, here we talk to Michael Truluck about his illustrious career in retail and his current role as chairman of Joe Browns.
Could you tell us a little about Joe Browns and what is its USP?
Joe Browns has been creating remarkable products for over 25 years with a simple mission – to make people feel great while injecting as much individuality and colour into as many wardrobes and homes as possible. The beauty of the brand is you won’t find anything like a Joe Browns product from anywhere else on the high street. It’s the attention to detail and the finishing touches that make the clothing and homewares truly unique.
How have you developed the business as an omnichannel operation?
Joe Browns started as a catalogue business, then evolved into catalogue and ecommerce and in the last few years has started down the omnichannel route with stores in Meadowhall and York. Last year we opened two additional stores in Windermere and Leeds White Rose centre and these are performing very well. As a result, in 2024 we plan to open more stores and are progressing very well with one in Southern England which is planned to open in the second quarter.
What has been your most productive initiative?
I believe that my most productive initiative has been to focus and drive the importance of having a great, motivated, engaged and passionate team who have a clear understanding of the vision and strategy of the company, because in my experience it has proven to be a formula for success.
What skills have you brought from your former roles – such as of CEO at La Redoute?
La Redoute was a great turnaround adventure, which involved the addition and growth of new categories like homes, a move from catalogues to digital and the successful deployment of the brand into new countries. These experiences and skills should help going forward with Joe Browns.
What are the challenges and opportunities for Joe Brown and the fashion sector?
Challenges are brand awareness, with only 40% of the UK familiar with the Joe Browns brand…But this is also a massive opportunity.
Opportunities includes following on seamlessly from our challenges, with brand awareness a great opportunity. With 60% of the nation remaining unfamiliar with Joe Browns, it is a really exciting position to be in. We have a huge group of the population yet to be acquainted with our distinct product offering, which could just be exactly what they’ve been missing and bring joy to their day and wardrobe.
Also, bricks & mortar stores. We operated as an online and mail order company for 19 years before opening a flagship store in Meadowhall, Sheffield, in 2017. We have gradually added a couple more locations to our high street offering (York Designer Outlet in July 2019, a franchise in Bowness-on-Windermere in June 2023, and Leeds White Rose in December 2023) but there is still plenty of opportunity for us to make our mark on the physical retail space.
Each store’s design is carefully considered to ensure a truly memorable shopping experience, with the aim of evoking the ‘three ‘is’ in every visitor – interest, intrigue and inspire. There’s also something to be said for experiencing the Joe Browns offering in real life, to fully appreciate the product, colour and the distinctive details in tangible form.
Finally, new territories because a large part of the world is untouched by Joe Browns, and that’s a great shame.
What role models – people and businesses – do you have in the retail sector?
The most important role models in my life were met way before I built a career in the retail sector. Both my mother and father were entrepreneurial, as was my wider family. Each of my parents had their own businesses and the majority of discussions around the dinner table were business-focused. This most certainly had an impact on my attitude towards work and the rate at which I wanted to progress. Added to this, growing up in South Africa until 18, I was touched by the leadership, compassion and vision of Nelson Mandela ‘Madiba’ and love to use some of his inspirational quotes such as, ‘a winner is a dreamer who never gives up’ and ‘it always seems impossible until it’s done!’
Why have you decided to speak at The Retail Bulletin’s Omnichannel Futures event?
The deciding factor in speaking at the Omnichannel Futures event is to share the colourful and exciting story of Joe Browns to date, which only a few people know, and outline the vision and plan ahead, which is going to be an adventure.
Omnichannel Futures will be held on 6 March in central London. Retailers can find out more and register for their free places here