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Featured in the May 2011 issue

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It is over twenty-five years since Jim Luck set out to prove that he could achieve something in retailing on his own and he has every right to feel proud of what he has accomplished but Jim is not one to rest on his laurels.

Jim was only thirty-four when he opened his first shop. He had previous retailing experience gained under the expert tutelage of Peter Forbes, another well known Louth retailer, but he took a big risk to fund his new business on Eastgate which then only stocked leathergoods and luggage.

“I risked everything I owned including my house to begin with,” Jim explained “but it was never primarily about making lots of money but rather about creating a business and proving something to myself.”

His first premises opened in 1985 and Jim still believes in stocking the well known, quality brands that customers recognised and valued then such as Samsonite, Tula and The Bridge. Jim put a lot of work in himself renovating and updating the shop including expanding into the upstairs area as demand grew.

Never one to miss the opportunity to expand, in 2005 Luck of Louth bought Pridmore’s menswear shop which was next to their premises and this enabled the business to take another leap forward.

Customer demand has always driven the business and two years later Jim bought the next shop along to give him even more floor space. His most recent expansion has been the opening of a shoe shop at 81 and 83 Eastgate in September last year and now Luck of Louth not only has twenty times the original floor space but also employs thirteen people.

Jim’s rule of thumb when buying has always been to stock brands that he himself would like to buy. As well as Samsonite luggage and The Bridge, Tula and Radley handbags and leathergoods, the menswear ranges include international names such as Meyer, Magee, R.M.Williams, Seidensticker and Eterna as well as footwear ranges for men from Loake, Barkers and Anatomic & Co. There is a large selection of country wear for both ladies and gentlemen from famous names including Dubarry, Barbour, and Schoffel which has established Luck of Louth as the county’s leading independent country wear specialists. These are brands of distinction which Jim Luck takes great pride in promoting and knows are of the right quality and value for his customers.

Jim is the first to acknowledge the contribution his wife Julie and all his other staff have made to the growth of Luck of Louth. He gives credit to the manager of his main shop, Maxine Stephenson, for its most recent success. “Maxine and all my other staff are dedicated to providing an outstanding service to our customers from the moment they walk into the store,” Jim commented, “and it is why customers remain so loyal to Luck of Louth.

“Maxine does a brilliant job in ensuring that our stock levels are always up-to-date and that the administration side of the business runs efficiently as well as ensuring our customer service levels are always impeccable”.

Jim has been delighted at the very positive response they have had to their first venture into ladies fashion. Concentrating on the smart, casual market they have featured collections from Denmark including Jackpot, Jensen and Signal and there will be more to follow.

Jim has been keen to work with other Louth retailers to promote the town as a worthwhile and pleasurable place to visit and shop. “Louth has really grown as a thriving town for independent retailers while I have been in business and I am pleased that Luck of Louth adds to that mix of quality shops that attracts people to the town.”

The business has been not only Jim Luck’s career it has also been his further education. He would be the first to acknowledge it has not always been easy but his years of experience, retail knowledge and success recently led to him being invited to attend, as a bursary winner the Retail Masters Forum, sponsored by Skillsmart Retail, at Oxford University, a course aimed primarily at employees of national retailers who show boardroom potential. Jim was one of only eight bursary winners nationwide. While there is always more to learn, courses in finance, customer care and a ‘Dragon’s Den’ type presentation confirmed to Jim his own management style and how much Luck of Louth are doing right.

Throughout his retailing career and during challenging times Jim has enjoyed sport as a hobby and although he does not play cricket or football any more he retains his enthusiasm for squash and running. “It is a nice release,” Jim explained, “enabling me to clear my mind and recharge my batteries.”

The next big project for Luck of Louth will be the development of their online shop. With so many outstanding brands and their reputation for excellent customer service, Jim is keen to offer their products to customers who may not be able to visit the shop as well as established customers unable to visit in person.

“Now that we have the shoe shop up and running, this is my next area of expansion,” said Jim, still full of energy and enthusiasm for the business he started those years ago.

IN FEET FIRST
Jim Luck has always been good at identifying employees with lots of potential for his business and Vanessa Cook, the manageress of his newly opened shoe shop at 81 and 83, Eastgate, is no exception.

Vanessa has plenty of retail experience, having managed large teams at Harrods and other national chains but this is her first experience of the responsibility of buying for and running an independent shoe shop. “Jim has been a great support in guiding me through the potential minefield of buying,” she said, “and he has so many contacts when choosing brands, it has been fascinating to learn what I can from him.”

The same principle of buying quality, known brands as is used for the main shop has been applied here as well. Customers will find ranges by Josef Seibel, Emu, Crocs, FitFlop, MBT, Keen, Hunter, Dr Martens, Ara, Waldlaufer, Rohde and Reiker. New brands Camel Active, Sorel and Romika join us in the autumn.

With renovations shortly to be completed on the shop exterior, the shoe shop will be another valuable addition to the Louth independent shopping experience, as well as another important growth of products offered to Luck of Louth’s customers.

Vanessa has a full-time assistant manager, Vicky, working with her but she is happy to have her time split between buying and serving customers herself. “It is being front facing to customers that I enjoy most about retailing, knowing that I am offering them a great selection of quality products and making sure they come away with the one which suits them best, in style, comfort and value,” she concluded.

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