'I’d call on all of us in Market Harborough and beyond to be optimistic and positive in 2020' says Harborough entrepreneur who has enjoyed global success

Tom JouleTom Joule
Tom Joule | jpimedia
Tom Joule has urged the people of Market Harborough to be “optimistic and positive” as he targets a landmark 2020.

The mastermind behind global designer clothing and lifestyle business Joules is gearing up to unveil their new world-class £20m headquarters in the town next summer.

And Tom, 51, insists there are a lot of reasons to be cheerful as he wished everyone across the Harborough area a happy New Year.

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Talking to the Harborough Mail at Joules’ current HQ at The Point on Rockingham Road, the legendary entrepreneur said: “I’d like to wish everyone a fantastic New Year.

“I’d call on all of us in Market Harborough and beyond to be optimistic and positive in 2020.

“Let’s look on the bright side.”

Tom added: “We’ve been under the cosh with Brexit and the general election.

“We all live in a great place, we are very lucky to live here and there’s a lot to look forward to.”

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One of Leicestershire’s most brilliant businessmen spoke to the Mail as he celebrates an incredible three decades of stellar success after launching in 1989 when he was just 21.

“The 30 years have gone quickly.

“The last 20 years, since when I’ve been putting my own name on products, has gone even faster,” said proud Harborough boy Tom, who still lives locally.

“Setting out I was standing in a field selling clothes out of a tent!

“But I went to country shows all over the UK and I saw what people were wearing.

“I knew what my customer wanted – I was tuned in.

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“I also saw different people appearing, moving out of the city into the country.

“They were more colourful people – and they wanted more than green wellies and brown coats.

“We had to move fast because we were copied very quickly.

“I started out with a polo shirt and a fleece before expanding into whole new ranges with clothes for different seasons.”

The dad-of-three said they have appealed to a wide mix of shoppers over the last 30 years.

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“We were good at keeping the original heritage customer who went to point-to-point races and country shows.

“But we also grew organically as we moved out into a broader market too,” said Tom, who’s now chief brand officer.

“We still attend about 50 shows every year and I still go to the bigger ones, I still get a buzz.

“It keeps us close to our loyal customers – and they mean everything to us.

“We set up a mail order arm of the business in 2003.

“We saw the future and we’d moved online by 2006.

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“It was a massive learning curve but it was a huge leap forward.

“We’ve now got about two million customers worldwide as well as offices in New York and Shanghai.

“We sell to a lot of department stores in the UK and USA and John Lewis and Next have become important partners.”

He said they’d developed toiletries with Boots, eyewear with a Nottingham company and furniture.

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“We’ve got the best-selling branded settee in DFS, who are huge.

“We also do bedding, radios, crockery, luggage and watches.

“I’ve always seen the opportunity and had an entrepreneurial spirit,” smiled Tom, who’s worth £130m according to the 2019 Sunday Times Rich List.

“It’s so exciting because we’re always planning new initiatives, always looking to get ahead.”

Born in Little Bowden, he attended Little Bowden Primary School before stepping up to Welland Park and Robert Smyth schools.

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“It’s amazing because our product director Laura Douglas and creative director Chloe Ward also went to all three schools.

“They were 12 years behind me I hasten to add!

“My family were into the retail trade and a lot of people I went to school with chose to go into the fashion industry,” said Tom, who now has 128 stores in the UK and Ireland.

“There is a lot of Market Harborough in the Joules brand.

“We make observations about people right here on our very own doorstep.

“Harborough is right at the heart of what we do and who we are.

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“We’ve got a fantastic market and town centre, history and traditions.

“But we’re also quirky and are moving forward with cracking cafes, independent one-off shops and great schools.”

He helped launch Friends of Joules, a website showcasing “contemporary country living”, in September.

“We’ve teamed up with about 100 wonderfully creative people who suit our customers but might not have our marketing reach.

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“It’s beat our expectations already and gives people even more reason to come to Joules,” said Tom, said to number the Duchess of Cambridge among his biggest fans.

“It’s a big digital department store and it’s opened up a whole new world for us.”

The blowtorch trailblazer said his new state-of-the-art Joules HQ will open on Rockingham Road in July or August.

“It will cost about £20 million.

“We want to create a unique building that Harborough can get excited about and will be proud of.

“We came here 12 years ago and we’ve ran out of room.

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“We have five offices on this estate but it’s crucial that we move all our staff under one roof,” said Tom, who’ll be spending Christmas at his home outside Harborough.

“Over 400 of us will go in and the new headquarters will have capacity for 550.

“It’s been designed by London architects Edge – and they really are cutting edge.

“The HQ will be made up of a sequence of barns because we wanted to keep that rustic, country flavour.

“We wanted to create a lovely feature, stand-out building you’ll pass coming into Harborough.

“We’ve come a long way since our first office in a cowshed on a farm!”