ET Business feature: Success is a plus for Yours Clothing

Suzanne Robinson and Lauren Thompson looking at spring/summer clothing for 2012. Below, the new Milton Keynes store.
Suzanne Robinson and Lauren Thompson looking at spring/summer clothing for 2012. Below, the new Milton Keynes store.
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A BUSINESS which began life as a small shop in Felixstowe has gone on to become one of Peterborough’s biggest success stories.

Yours Clothing specialises in selling plus size clothes for women size 14 to 32. It has 40 stores up and down the country, a website which sells products across the world, and now employs more than 400 people.

Fashion editor, Julia Ogden with the brand new catalogue Yours. Photo: Ben Davis/Peterborough ET

Fashion editor, Julia Ogden with the brand new catalogue Yours. Photo: Ben Davis/Peterborough ET

Based in Werrington, Yours Clothing is owned by Andrew Killingsworth, who was born and bred in Peterborough.

Raised on a farm in Orton Waterville, Andrew’s business acumen began at an early age, when he joined his parents selling cheese and meats from a market stall in Huntingdon.

Like many entrepreneurs, Andrew soon set up his own business on the side, selling farm produce to people moving into the new housing estates springing up around the Ortons.

“I would load two old supermarket trolleys with produce, and then just go around knocking on people’s doors,“ he said. “I suppose you could say buying and selling is in my blood.”

By the time he left school in the 1980s, Andrew had become a fully-fledged market trader.

“It was great fun,” he said. “I didn’t particularly enjoy getting up early and standing in the cold for long periods of time, but I loved the banter of the market and meeting customers, talking to them face-to-face.”

So, when an opportunity arose to buy the stall opposite, selling women’s clothes, Andrew jumped at the chance.

“I just thought what would I rather do? Sell cheese and meat to old women, or clothes to young ones?” he joked.

Before long, Andrew opened his first shop – Lady Jane – in the Hereward Arcade, selling cheap and cheerful women’s clothes, with a few plus size items on the side.

But he admits he made many mistakes and in the early 90s had to learn the hard way about the dos and don’ts of running a business.

“Things like rents and rates were a mystery to me, “ he said, “Managing staff – some of whom would steal from me – was another challenge, and although I opened a few other stores around this time, I was struggling.”

In 1994, Andrew’s world came crashing down, and he declared himself bankrupt.

“It was the worst and the best thing that could have happened to me,” he said.

“Obviously, it was very upsetting, but I also learnt some very valuable lessons, and after a while realised it was an opportunity for a fresh start.”

This new beginning led to Andrew setting up Size Up, a store in Felixstowe selling plus size ladies fashion.

“I bought out of season clothes from manufacturers and wholesalers, and business was booming,” he said.

“But I soon realised that my customers didn’t want to be an afterthought; they wanted to wear the same clothes as their friends. Size Up, as a name, was not very PC either, so Yours Clothing was born.”

It is fair to say that Andrew is extremely proud of his company and all it has achieved, but what he loves most is hearing feedback from customers about how Yours Clothing has transformed their lives.

“I love it when a customer emails or tells me how much they love our clothes, and how an outfit from us has made them feel better about themselves,” he said.

“I am also proud of the fact that we offer great value for money. We do not over price our clothes to take 20 per cent off at a later date. We sell clothes at a reasonable price to begin with.”

So what does the future hold for Yours?

“Well, I plan to open even more stores in the UK, and expand the business abroad,” he said.

“We have also just produced our first-ever catalogue, which we hope will promote our brand to even more people, as well as benefiting our loyal, regular customers.

“And our website, which we only launched four years ago, now brings in more than 40 per cent of our revenue, so we are continually looking at ways to improve and update this.

“I am very optimistic about the future. The plus size clothing industry is a growing industry and we want to continue to outshine our competitors in price, customer service and choice.”