Gun Trade News meets up with James Hinton and Kam Sahota of Alan Paine to discuss some of the most decisive moments in the company’s recent history.
When GTN last spoke to Alan Paine, the brand was marking its 110th anniversary and preparing to launch their own range of footwear. Three years on and managing director, James Hinton, is celebrating his own personal milestone while Alan Paine celebrate the launch of their Autumn Winter 2020 range.
Having first been headhunted in 1986, James has helped oversee the brand’s rise to prominence. In September 2005, James made the next step and bought the brand from Harris Wilson. In the almost 15 years that have followed, James says: “I have never looked back.
“Though at the time, it was of course a risk, as I’d only just remarried and had two very young children. It required all of our savings and we have to max out on the credit cards in order to make the acquisition.
“With a supportive wife, who put up with endless trips away, I knew I just had to make this work. Having worked for the company since 1986 I have always been passionate about the brand.
“At the time Alan Paine was purely a knitwear company, but my plan was always to develop more into a lifestyle brand to make the product more appealing to a wider audience.”
All in all, Alan Paine has come a long way, from knitwear specialist to a broad lifestyle clothing brand that takes in jackets, shirts, trousers, high-performance sportswear, 100 per cent waterproof jackets, tweeds and more. The brand continues to leave its indelible mark on countryside fashion.
James explains: “Without doubt the biggest success was the launch of the Country Collection. I started sourcing key outerwear pieces from another company which is where I met Kam Sahota; he had a wealth of experience in country wear.
“After a couple of seasons of working together, we started talking in depth one day and I could tell he was not happy in his role.
“After two hours we shook hands with the agreement that he would come and work for me to launch the Alan Paine Country Collection.
“It took us 14 months to get around to a formal signed contract between us as we just didn’t have time to sort it out, but we had a mutual trust and respect for each other. Today we are not only work colleagues but also very good friends; quite a special partnership in the business world.”
As the brand continues to grow, both in terms of popularity and the range of product on offer, Country Clothing now accounts for around 40 per cent of Alan Paine’s business. On the consumer side, plans are in place to attract new customers and make them loyal to brand.
James remarks: “Our goal from the start was to develop excellent products that were great value for money. Alan Paine himself taught me ‘never lower your quality; let the competition fight that one out, just stand tall’.
“At 6’4’’ I stand taller than most but I knew exactly what he meant. The compliments we receive on our products, customer service and attention to detail would, I am sure, make Alan Paine as proud as it does me.”
As for retailers, James adds that Alan Paine ‘welcomes the opportunity’ to get creative and support their retailers. He says that to help raise the brand profile in store and maximise sales, the outfitters “offer a variety of point of sale items from banners to brand blocks and have even supplied branded stock room curtains.”
He continues: “We enjoy getting involved with retailer events and open days and believe regular store visits are incredibly important to not only get to know our retailers but to discover additional ways in which we can help. We also offer an exciting Privilege Club and Diamond Club for retailers.”
James puts the impressive growth on the brand down to offering of great products at affordable prices. “Each season we focus on evolving our classic styling, introducing new styles, colourways and innovative fabrics to continually inspire and excite our customers. With each new collection we have to keep moving forward,” he says.
The brand is currently marking the launch of its AW20 range, but work is already under way for spring-summer 2021 and even autumn-winter 2021. When we last caught up with James, in 2017, Alan Paine were about the launch their first range of footwear. The competitive footwear market was seen as a bold move at the time, as James can confirm.
“The footwear market is extremely tough to get established in and, while I feel it’s important for us to offer footwear as part of the overall Alan Paine Country Collection look, to take on the big players would require a huge collection and major investment.
“So keeping with our original strategy of combining quality with good value and offering selected leather footwear styles in our men’s and ladies collections has exceeded our goals.”
Alongside James, Kam Sahota has been one of the driving forces of Alan Paine’s Countryside Collection since he joined the business. “Having 15 years of manufacturing outerwear experience behind me and with a genuinely honest person like James at the helm of a wonderful brand like Alan Paine, the opportunity was not to be missed and I have not looked back since.
“I am delighted to now be on the board of directors at Alan Paine with my prime responsibility being to manage the direction and development of the Alan Paine Country Collection,” he explains.
“Though the sector is perceived as a ‘traditional clothing sector’, the market does move more rapidly than years gone by. The internet and social media are driving this and the consumer is constantly looking at what is new in the marketplace. It is our job to put forward new fabrics and collections that are at the forefront of this.
“A lot of our long-standing retail partners do offer sound advice and we would be foolish to ignore this, but largely they are happy for us to lead the way determining what works for the brand across all our markets,” adds Kam.
This business model has served Alan Paine well over the past 15 years, but we ask James – a keen golfer – what his plans for the next 15 years are: “Well, 15 years would take me to 72 so I am hoping that I would be using a golf bag more than a sample bag by then!
“I would like to have a number of worldwide Alan Paine shop-in-shops where we work closely with retailers. I also see the brand being synonymous with British heritage, quality and evolutionary – rather than revolutionary – styling.
I think it is becoming more and more difficult to make a brand stand out in the market place so we have to continue to inspire and push the boundaries further than before.”