Branded keeps its focus on the customer

MORE than a decade ago, Chris Ogden started a business selling branded products from his North Yorkshire home.

Suit designer Simon Carter with Bradford City captain Gary Jones and Alan Connell get fitted for their suits at The Coral Windows Stadium

Today, Branded Solutions, whose product range includes woven labels, carrier bags, swing tickets, suit covers and packaging, counts among its client base the likes of Moss Bros, French Connection UK, House of Fraser, Pierre Cardin, Ted Baker and Lambretta.

And thanks to a longstanding relationship with another of the firm’s customers, menswear brand Simon Carter, Mr Ogden has recently embarked on a new business venture in Ilkley.

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He and his wife Julia have opened a new Simon Carter shop in the West Yorkshire spa town.

The shop recently kitted out players from Bradford City with Simon Carter suits and Hudson Shoes footwear ready for this month’s Capital One final clash at Wembley.

Mr Ogden said: “It’s been a busy few weeks. We’ve had a very good reception from the customers that have come into the shop.”

Simon Carter supplies into retailers such as John Lewis and House of Fraser, but in recent times opened its own shops in areas such as London and Buckinghamshire, as well as the store in Ilkley.

Mr Ogden explained: “Simon Carter contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in opening up and running a Simon Carter shop in the North of England. I said, ‘I’d love to’.”

The Simon Carter shop in Ilkley, which is owned by Mr and Mrs Ogden and opened in October last year, sells Simon Carter products along with other brands such as Hudson Shoes.

Meanwhile, Branded Solutions, also owned by Mr and Mrs Ogden, is in its 11th year of trading and this year expects to see a 10 per cent rise in turnover on last year’s £700,000.

The business, which carries out its design and development from its Yorkshire base in Gargrave, near Skipton, employs four full-time staff as well as working with three specialised freelance designers.

“Having started from scratch in a small bedroom we have grown to be a major supplier within our field but constantly remain customer focused”, said Mr Ogden.

The company’s main production facilities are based in the Far East and Turkey and it also offers a stock and distribution service from these locations in addition to the UK.

Mr Odgen said: “We maintain the need to be able to offer local supply to the global nominated suppliers of our UK customers and as such have close partnerships with others in demand countries such as Portugal and Bangladesh.”

“It is a tricky business to be in, as is retail, but it is performing well,” said Mr Ogden.

“Our turnover is currently circa £700,000 but has been as high as £1m, though we are currently reviewing our business model for sustained business growth.”

Branded Solutions is looking to decrease its stock holding period to create a leaner operation.

Mr Ogden explained: “Our business for the bigger retailers is very much a stock service for supply and demand.

“When I say we’re re-focusing our model a bit, we are making Branded Solutions a little bit leaner in how we operate.

“We are saying we can keep stock for a maximum of three to six months.

“So we’re pulling that stock holding period down so we can continue to be good at what we believe we’re best at which is the design of the products themselves and remain competitive as well.”

While Branded Solutions looks set to employ another couple of staff in the near future, its longer term plans include setting up a base in the capital as well.

Mr Ogden said: “Probably 70 per cent of our business is generated from London customers.

“So further down the line I’d like to have a London hub and maybe a sales person there and a London showroom.”

He said he is pleased with the progress the business has made since it was launched in 2002 in a bedroom at his home in Long Preston.

It started with three people, initially expanding to the outbuildings, before moving to an office unit in Gargrave.

“You get your highs and your lows and it’s not the easiest market to be in,” said Mr Ogden.

“Textiles and retail I don’t think have ever been, in my life anyway, an easy business, you’ve got to work hard at it, which is what we do.

“I’m happy with the progression we’ve made.”

Others among Branded Solutions’ customer base include Paul’s Boutique, a new client it won last year, Jeff Banks, Aquascutum and Daniel Hechter. Mr Ogden said that Branded Solutions is profit making but didn’t disclose figures.

Witnessing a textiles revival

CHRIS Ogden grew up immersed in the textiles sector.

His father, David Ogden, now retired, was a well-respected worsted cloth designer, working for many of the Yorkshire mills.

Today, Chris works with textile companies through his business Branded Solutions.

He said: “My feeling is that the local mills, those that have survived, are doing quite well at the moment because the heavier weight worsted cloth, like the Harris Tweed sort of cloth, is quite fashionable. So the bigger retailers such as Ted Baker and Jack Wills are taking on English cloth and English cloth is predominantly in Yorkshire.”

The textiles industry mushroomed during the Industrial Revolution, before going into decline in the 1960s.

But the sector is said to be seeing a revival as markets such as Japan and the United States seek out the British brand.