Our Co-Director Chris recently spoke to small business insurance specialist Hiscox about the ins & outs of running a family business and the current state of the UK manufacturing industry – and everything in between!
Here’s a quick snippet of the interview:
Inside the Royal Warrant holders – Prince Charles’s favourite sock maker
In the latest in our series, businesses holding coveted Royal Warrants reveal what they’ve learnt over the years. Corgi Hosiery founder Rhys Jones began making thick woollen stockings for local miners in 1892 in Wales. Today it’s Prince Charles’s favourite sock maker and is now run by Rhys’s great, great grandchildren Chris Jones and Lisa Wood.
How have different generations of your family changed your firm?
By the time my grandfather came into the business after the Second World War, the company was selling socks across the UK. He was in Ireland on a business trip when he met a buyer for Brooks Brothers [the US clothing firm]. The buyer came to visit the factory in Wales at my grandfather’s invitation and placed an order after that. That was when the firm started to export, and the business quickly grew.
My father, who joined the business in the early 1960s, had an interest in knitwear, and so the business started to make jumpers and cardigans, which also helped the company to grow quickly. Today, the business is pretty much a 50/50 split between knitwear and socks.
When my sister and I took over the company, it made socks for other clothes makers under their names. If they turned around and told us they were going with another supplier because they were cheaper than us then we lost all of that business. Customers didn’t know that we were actually making the sock, so that’s why we thought it was very important that we put our own brand name on them.
Also, we wanted to target a younger audience and to make more designer garments, so we improved our branding and we insisted that the socks we make go out with the Corgi brand on them. Our biggest selling point is that our socks are made in the UK, and so our customers know when they see the Corgi brand that they will get good-quality garments.
Was it always the plan for you to join the family business?
It was always my intention to work here since I was little, when I used to come down here and help out during the school holidays. But it wasn’t my sister’s plan originally. She went off to become a fashion designer, and then she worked as a buyer for a big clothes firm, before she decided that she wanted to move home and join the family business.
You can read the interview in full over on the Hiscox Small Business Blog.