Hot 100 2013: Andrew Higgs & Phil Higgs

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The fifth generation celebrating 125 years of the TH Baker business.

The brothers Higgs run a retail empire that was founded way over a century ago but there is nothing backward-looking about their stores. Or their strategies.

An active duo, they have been particularly busy in the past 24 to 36 months, making and taking a series of tactical decisions about openings, refurbs, branded sales and sell-offs. It all seems to be paying off, and there is no better time to celebrate the nous of the brothers than now.

Because this year is TH Baker’s 125th anniversary, celebrating a business started by the brothers’ great-great grandfather Thomas Henry Baker in 1888.

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On the customer-facing side they have embarked on a massive publicity drive that will see them give away £125,000 worth of stock. In return they hope to get public recognition and a stronger customer database.

But let’s rewind ever so slightly. Following several new openings, they now operate 21 stores in the UK, 10 of which are Pandora fascias and they are growing online sales through thbaker.co.uk. Last year they sold online portal the Watch Hut to DM London and reinvested that money. The Watch Hut’s now estranged little sister site The Jewel Hut is fast becoming a star in the Higgs’ firmament.

It must be gratifying to see your strategy pay off. Andrew says: “Adding new stores is always a boost to the business, so the establishment of three new stores, and one resite, has been a highlight. Also, the sale of the Watch Hut in early 2012 has allowed us to focus more energy into other online ventures, including The Jewel Hut, gradually growing it to Watch Hut levels of success.”

Branded sales are strongest and the TH Baker stores’ stock varies from location to location but the brothers have made a conscious effort to heighten the impact and effect of their brands in stores, with Hot Diamonds, Links of London, Thomas Sabo, Diamonfire, Chamilia and Crislu among the names on sale and drawing in brand-hungry punters.

Andrew says refurbishment was a priority. Sales in the Shrewsbury store, for example, have climbed dramatically, doubling since its refit. The duo work efficiently now, dividing responsibilities into defined areas.

“We both have different ideas and priorities, but we work well together – we’re brothers, after all,” says Andrew.
“My responsibilities are varied. I look after strategy, finances, property negotiation, projects and ecommerce.” And Phil chips in: “I oversee the general running of the shops, which includes everything from new shop fits to buying jewellery brands for particular stores.”

And of course with everything going so well for the family’s fifth generation they are hungry for more success. There’s nothing concrete right now but Andrew says: “At this stage, we’re looking at maybe a few more shops, a new franchise, and relocating some more of the existing TH Baker stores.” At this rate the sixth generation will inherit a corking business.

Andrew Higgs and Phil Higgs were selected as an IJL Retail Star in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the book in full online, click here.
 

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