Retail’s pandemic-driven woes have been well documented, with imposed closures on stores sweeping away so much of the experiential magic that is crucial for high-end fashion brands.
But Gloucestershire fashion label Holland Cooper, which has its headquarters just outside Cheltenham, towards Dowdeswell, has proved adept at protecting its hard-won brand integrity and still generating significant online sales.
‘The wholesale business has doubled this year – in fact, tripled. We have 120 stores across the UK. Expansion has really come online. We are expanding all the time,’ said Jade Holland Cooper, 34, who founded her eponymous brand in 2008 and saw it pass £10 million turnover after a decade in business. ‘And we are investing all of that back into the business.’
The sartorial entrepreneur started creating waves with her fashionable tweed and countrywear after deciding to quit studying at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester to sell her own-design miniskirts at Badminton Horse Trials.
The business credentials of the farmer’s daughter from Suffolk, whose mother was also a fashion designer, and her flare for design were established long before she married serial entrepreneur and Superdry co-founder Julian Dunkerton.
In 2020, staff numbers at Holland Cooper grew from an estimated 32 to 50. And pre-pandemic online sales already reportedly represented 60 per cent of sales.
Earlier this month (April), Holland Cooper was proud to see her brand the headline act helping draw attention to the opening of the new Sandersons Boutique Store at Stroud’s new-look shopping centre, Five Valleys.
It represents an ongoing relationship with the Mark Dransfield-owned business, but her thoughts are now focused on a project very close to her heart – an exclusive Cheltenham Holland Cooper store.
‘It will be just off the A40, on the way out to Oxford, towards Dowdeswell. It will be something really beautiful for Cheltenham. It is a huge investment.
‘All our limited-edition products will be there. It will be a really, really, special experience. I can’t tell you the opening date – but I can say it will be within the next eight weeks,’ she said.
No more physical stores are in the immediate plans. Despite the challenges presented by Brexit, Holland Cooper expects growth to come from expansion overseas – where a significant love remains for quality brands with style and British credentials.
By Andrew Merrell