Howies' Former Owners Reflect On Their Sale
Howies is the English eco tee-shirt brand that everyone loves. It was a small company, started in Wales seven years ago by a young couple who wanted to produce cool and environmentally friendly sportswear. The Hieatts were ahead of just about everyone when it came to really caring about all aspects of the production of their clothing, use of organic fabrics and social responsibility. Plus they had a sense of humour. They worked their guts out in the beginning; both having full time jobs and children whilst starting the business. Then they sold (out?) to the American clothing giant Timberland in 2006. They continue to have creative control and to run the business; the sale enabled them to increase the capital available to expand it. As Clare Hieatt says "We're good at developing the brand, but hopeless at the finances."
So how do they feel about this change after almost two years. They have opened two stores in England and business is up 20% each year. Having sold for an undisclosed sum of money, it sounds like they are still working hard to keep the company on target. For their latest summer catalogue they sent clothes to friends in warmer climes rather than fly the models there. They are very concerned about the factories where the clothing is made. Their solution was to use the same factories as companies that they trust such as Marks & Spencer.
But the Hieatts seem frustrated that Timberland isn't investing as much money in the business as they would like. "Timberland is having a hard time right now," says David. "My challenge to Timberland has been that if you have bought the car, you have to be prepared to put petrol in it." As David Hieatt says: "the truth is nobody loves Howies like we do." :: The Times