In business, simplicity can often be the key to success.
This is certainly true for Alfred Sayers in Ealing: the ‘traditional mens’ outfitters’ has been trading for more than 100 years and has been in the same family for three generations.
“My brother always says we opened in 1884, but I don’t know what evidence he has for that,” says David Sayers, 80. “I can say with some certainty that we have been open since 1907, and in this shop since about 1920.”
Mr Sayers has been working in the shop for 60 years and in that time he has seen lots of changes. “I liked the old Ealing,” he says, “when it was a rich area and we were selling the very top end – names like Chester Barrie and Aquascutum – but of course Ealing isn’t that sort of area now.”
The shop’s longevity is at least in part down to the high standards of service. “We have built up a very loyal customer base,” says shop manager Robert Hutchinson, 60. “We have got to know a lot of our customers over the years and we treat them like friends – we know them by their first names and they know us by ours.”
Having said this, business has not been easy recently. “About 15 years ago we were selling 2,300 suits, this year we will be lucky if we sell more than 400,” said Mr. Sayers. “The suit trade has probably reached rock bottom, and it should probably start to improve again. The one thing you sell suits for these days is job interviews and funerals. It used to be weddings but now people seem to wear anything to those.”
The shop generally caters to an older clientele but recently one particular line has been drawing younger people in.
Mr. Sayer said: “We sell quite a lot of trilbies to people aged 16-17. Hats and caps are one of the few areas where we are seeing growth. On a cold day like today we will probably also sell four or five flat caps to people who are passing.”
Sadly, none of Mr. Sayer’s children want to take over the shop when he retires.
He said: “They’re just not interested. Retail is not what it was, and certainly not in Ealing – this is not the really the place for this kind of shop any more – when I finish that will be it.”