On Thursday night I was invited to attend the re-opening of Henry Bucks flagship store on Collins Street, Melbourne. Whilst the re-opening was a way to introduce customers to the newly renovated premises and new brands (including Italian casual clothing giant “Incotex/Slowear”, Carmina shoes and many others still to come in the months ahead), the more important story was that it signalled Henry Bucks entering a new era of its 124 year family-owned history.
Henry Bucks has been an Australian institution since 1890 and has garnered a loyal following amongst generations of Australian men. In recent times, however, its client base, comprised largely of older men, has left a significant gap in the market, with many younger men feeling that the store may not be for them. The darker wood paneling and clubby interior incorrectly but understandably making for a potentially intimidating experience.
And it is with the new generation of younger men that Henry Bucks future will come to increasingly depend. So it was to their credit that Tim Cecil, Managing Director, along with the board, made the no doubt difficult decision to re-craft their image for this new market, who are beginning to take pride in their appearance and care about the origins and craft behind their clothing.
To me, the real accomplishment has been not just in the new look of their flagship store, but in their ability to have kept a classic feel, ensuring existing clients, many of whom have been loyal to Henry bucks for over 60 years, know they remain genuinely valued and just as important to Henry Bucks future as they have been to their past. The Melbourne store is the first to undergo a revival, with Sydney to follow in due course.
The expansive upstairs floor space has been converted in to a bright, open area, abundantly lit, with high ceilings, white walls and pale timbers. It’s an inviting space.
Downstairs, the timber panelling and cabinets remain, paying homage to the past, whilst new lighting has made an enormous difference and echoes the bright, relaxed the feel of upstairs.
The night itself was enjoyable and what stood out most was both the number of well-dressed men (several hundred, filling all of the available space), as well as the diverse age group of those in attendance. Young men in their late teens, through to long term customers, well in to their 80’s who were, as is always the way, among the best dressed in the room.
Christian Kimber was in charge of the festivities (though he was quick to point out that it was a team effort) which included the downstairs bar serving “old-fashioned’s” and a shoe polishing display and tutorial with Gerry Nelson.
Tim Cecil, Managing Director, kicked the evening off officially with his welcoming address, thanking all those present and the numerous individuals who came together to make the re-opening possible. It’s a rare and pleasing experience to have so many like-minded men and many of their wives and girlfriends share the same space at the same time.
There are a significant number of people who should be proud of what has now been accomplished and if the new direction for this heritage business is anything to go by, Henry Bucks is well placed to continue its thoroughly deserved success for the next 120 years.