Hot 100 2013: Tracey Brown and Harry Brown

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Forecasting £30 million turnover for Chisholm Hunter in 2013.

Against a backdrop of the toughest trading in decades, Chisholm Hunter has posted growing profit, opened stores and swept all before it. Crowned Multiple Retailer of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards twice in a row, it is clearly doing a lot of things right.

Behind the stellar 16-store, 180-employee chain are Harry and Tracey Brown, and their story is one of canny business, hard work and, ultimately, well-deserved success.

We have one question. Just how the hell do they do it? Harry laughs and says something utterly self deprecating. His team of colleagues and amazing suppliers deserve the credit, he says. They are the really worthy winners. It is a fair point and he means it. But still, he deserves praise.

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After starting off as a junior in a store, with barely a qualification to his name – “school and me didn’t get on,” he says – Harry bought Chisholm Hunter in 1989 when it was at rock bottom “just one store, trading very badly”.

Slowly and over nearly two-and-a-half decades he built it, with Tracey at his side, into an imposing and impressive chain. As for his partnership with Tracey, he says: “We’re like Yin and Yang, I guess. She’s definitely the Yin.” The Yin being the calm side.

When it comes to figures he is more focused on the next set than the last, and the forecast is for it to turnover £30 million in 2013, which will be up from 2012’s £22.8 million, and that the profit from that will be used to fund “significant expansion”.

And this will follow what has been a spectacularly busy year for Harry and Tracey, opening new stores, rolling out a new concept and achieving Investors in People. Harry says Investors in People reflects his genuine interest in developing peoples’ potential. “We’ve really focused on giving people as much support as we can. Things like courses and helping staff develop with an in-house training academy.”

Harry says when he bought Chisholm Hunter his plan was just to work as hard as possible and see what happened. Displaying that peculiarly Scottish knack of understatement, he says this strategy still holds some sway today. “You can only put the effort in and hope that things grow.” Makes it sound simple doesn’t he? If only it was….

Tracey and Harry Brown 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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