Style and substance

County Clothes is a gentleman’s outfitter with stores here in Tunbridge Wells as well as Sevenoaks, Canterbury, Reigate, Tenterden and Bexhill-on-Sea. The family-run business, which was established in 1976 and has just been nominated for a prestigious Drapers Award, prides itself on offering its customers the highest standards of sartorial service. Its managing director John Lambert tells Eileen Leahy more about the company and why it is the perfect choice whether you are looking to have a custom-made suit or simply want to buy off-the-peg for a special occasion…


Our history

Our first store opened in Canterbury in 1976 and over the last 47 years we have been able to increase the size of our business by opening another six stores, across the counties of Kent, East Sussex and Surrey. We have recently opened a new store in Tunbridge Wells and are now looking forward to opening our eighth shop in October in Herne Bay, Kent.

The reason for our longevity is that we have been able to offer a unique combination of quality clothing and personal service, which is something we take enormous pride in.

As an independent ‘owner driver’ retail business, we are in a position to buy seasonal collections tailored to the needs of our customers in individual areas. And with the support of an experienced team of professional managers and their teams, we are able to get to know our customers and offer them the right choice for their clothing needs.

In most of our stores we offer ready-to-wear suiting in a range of fabrics, whether it be for sports or formal wear. In our Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury and one of our Sevenoaks branches, we also offer a ‘Personal Tailoring’ service using a system and fabrics that are supplied by ETCH manufacturers.

This tailoring service allows the customer, whether it’s a groom and his groomsman, the father of the bride or guests, the ability to choose the fabric of the suit, and enhance the garment by a number of options including linings, buttons, stitching colour, trim and embroidery.

Many wedding parties choose to have the bride and groom’s name and date of wedding embroidered inside the jackets, or on the coloured Melton under the collar.


Designed for you

The ability to purchase a suit ‘off-the-peg’ is always convenient, but we are finding that wedding parties often come in all shapes and sizes, and to obtain a range of off-the-peg suits is not always straight forward. A prime example of this is that we have recently made 35 suits in the same fabric for the Kent County Cricket team and some of their support team, so with our personal tailoring service we can cater for a particular party in the same fabric. Our prices are also very comparable to stock suits.

As far as the formal wear brands we work with, DIGEL suiting proves to be very popular. It is a European brand offering modern and slim-fit suits in formal wool and wool blend fabrics. Other labels including ETERNA and OLYMP shirts are both extremely popular too. Made in pure cotton poplin with quality pearl finish bottoms they offer a number of fits and trims.

As a company, our USP would be the ability, and the desire to talk to our customers; to really get to know them and to understand why they want to buy a particular garment. This leads to us being able to give them the service and product they deserve.

Tweed fabrics are very in vogue at the moment for grooms and their parties and we are able to offer a number of medium and lightweight tweed fabrics in our personal tailoring range. In most of our stores we offer ranges of formal and contemporary shoes, as well as tan and two-tone brogues which are proving to be very popular at the moment.


Independent spirit

The benefits of running my business are that I am in position to be more creative when buying the seasonal collections. This helps us to offer ranges and styles that customers will not find in the larger multiple retailers. Doing this also helps us to support smaller European and British manufacturers.

There are many challenges faced by independent retailers, but staffing is probably the one at the top of the list. But I am very fortunate to have a great team of 34 members, ranging from 18 to 85 years old, many of whom have been with me anything from 1 to 35 years. It is very important to get the right person for the job, and therefore we offer good wages, clothing allowance, training and have had had several retail apprentices rise up through the ranks.

One of my most memorable wedding customers was a young man I encountered as I was locking up one of my stores at the end of trading one day. He was gazing in the window, and looking very forlorn, almost tearful, I greeted him with a smile and asked if he was OK? He explained that he was getting married in five days’ time, and that a very well-known suit retailer had let him down with his wedding suits purchase order. In short he and his wedding party, had nothing to wear.

To cut a long story short, I unlocked the shop and he proceeded to spend two hours with me looking at suits. His best man eventually joined him and his dad came in the next day. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing by myself and my general manager – not to mention a combination of 150-mile round trips by multiple members of staff – they arrived at their wedding extremely well suited and booted! We even had the pleasure of attending his wedding reception.


Now THAT’S independent retailing!


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