One of retail’s unsung success stories celebrated its 30th birthday last night.
One of the nice things about the past seven years of editing Retail Week has been going to fashion parties where I have been by some margin the least fashionable person there. So it was appropriate really that the last party I attended as Retail Week editor was in an achingly trendy Shoreditch club last night, to celebrate the 30th birthday of Schuh.
I really like Schuh. The MD Colin Temple and FD Mark Crutchley are nice guys who do business the right way. When they sold the company to US footwear retailer Genesco - which owns the Journeys chain of stores in the States - for £125m in June, they gave £37.3m to the staff. When the media reacted with shock, they were bemused - they just thought it was the right thing to do to give the people who made the business what it is a share in its success.
Schuh is a business which by its very nature has to be at the cutting edge of which footwear brands are in fashion. But it combines this with a real focus on customer service, and a highly efficient machine at its head office in Livingston. It has also been a pioneer online, and stayed ahead of the pack by building its own systems that are bespoke for its business rather than buying something off the shelf.
I met the guy who runs Genesco who’d come over from Nashville for the do last night, and he couldn’t speak highly enough of the new acquisition. He had considered opening his own stores here but then realised the fit with Schuh was so good that he bought that instead. He seemed remarkably down-to-earth for the CEO of a US listed retailer and it seemed that he knew full well that the key to Schuh’s continued success will be that it doesn’t get subsumed into a corporate machine, but continues to have the same culture which has served it so well over the past three decades.