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Interview with Westley Richards Retail Development Manager – Lauren Hooton

The Westley Richards name has long been synonymous with gun and riflemaking of the highest order, however the outfitting of clients for their adventures has always been, like many other famous gunmakers, a significant part of the company’s business.

Whether that is the supply of travel and sporting leather goods, top quality attire for in the field, accessories for your gundog(s) and even homewares fit for the modern sportsman, your preferred gunmaker has always been on hand.

In more recent times we have brought a number of these lines of business in-house and under the Westley Richards brand. Today, the development of our entire retail offering is managed by Lauren Hooton, who recently celebrated 10 years with the company this October.

 

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in White Rock, a little town just outside of Vancouver, Canada. I moved to the UK in 2013 and started working at Westley Richards 3 weeks later. My husband is British and having met in the US we started a long distance relationship, before I later made the decision to relocate.

What does your job entail? 

I am the Retail Development Manager at Westley Richards which is a very all-encompassing role in our small company. I am in charge of the buying of partner brands as well as developing our Westley Richards clothing collection and accessories. 

From sourcing fabrics and components internationally to working with some of the best British and European artisans, it is my responsibility to find the best combination of quality and style to meet Westley Richards standards. I also write our product descriptions for online and brochures as well as our regular newsletters, sharing why these products have been selected and crafted for our clients.

What path would you have taken if you hadn't moved into Sporting Retail? 

I had always wanted to be a Marine Biologist until I started studying for it at University. I grew up spending my summers boating along Canada’s West Coast so I have always had a passion and deep interest in Marine life.

Whilst studying, I began working in retail. This is where I recognised my talents in styling and merchandising and therefore changed my path to pursue a degree in Fashion Business and Creative Arts. 

What did your early years in the industry entail?

After graduating, I landed a job as a Manager and Buyer for a luxury ladies boutique in Vancouver. Here I gained experience in sourcing high quality clothing on international buying trips. In tandem, I also worked as a freelance stylist and was kindly invited back to be an instructor at the school I graduated from. I taught university level courses in Styling and Visual Display.

Who would you have counted as a mentor in the industry? 

Without a doubt Simon Clode. Simon hired me right after I moved to England 10 years ago and must have seen my potential, a Canadian girl with a fashion background, as he fit me into his business of guns and luxury sporting attire. 

Anyone who had the pleasure of meeting our late owner would know that Simon made an impression on everyone. Brutally honest and with impossibly high standards, he was a man of impeccable taste. Simon had a hard exterior but a heart of gold. He ingrained in me his expectations of quality and style that must be met for something to be worthy of the Westley Richards name.

What do you enjoy the most about working as the Retail Development Manager at Westley Richards?

Being a small, family-owned company, I feel a real sense of ownership of the retail department and our talented team has built a brand that I take great pride in. Sporting retail is a niche market but we strive to set ourselves apart from the competition. Finding the right combination of practicality and quality while still helping our clients to look both smart and “cool” is a great challenge that I think makes us stand out.

I love the fact that I get to use my creativity and intellect, as one day I may be styling a photoshoot and the next I will be calculating component costs and retail margins. 

 

What is your favourite product from the Westley Richards retail collection and why? 

The Travel Jacket.

This season we have just launched the Travel Jacket in a british-made Moleskin which works really well for slightly cooler temperatures and has been greatly received so far. In previous seasons it has been produced in a beautiful linen- cotton blend as well as in a Japanese ripstop camouflage fabric. I wear this myself in a men’s size small and find this style extremely comfortable being light and unlined. The large pockets are useful and it is easy to wash and care for. 

What is one of the biggest challenges in your role?

Quality always comes with a high price tag. I know our clients appreciate this fact but my biggest challenge on a daily basis is trying to negotiate the best prices for manufacturing while sourcing the highest quality fabrics and components at the right price, to keep our Westley Richards collection viable.

I have built good relationships with the few factories that we use and they are all small batch, family-run operations that work with the same ethos as our own. The price we pay them just to cut, make and sew a pair of trousers is easily more than you would pay for a finished pair at a high street retailer.

We will never compromise on quality so getting it for the right price and in small exclusive quantities is by far my biggest challenge.

With Christmas coming, what are your top gift suggestions? 

For a friend, I would choose this because it is universal: Stag Horn Bottle Opener

For a Her, I would choose this because it is luxurious and beautiful: Faliero Sarti Mosaico Scarf

 

For Him, I would choose this because it is timeless: Cashmere Cannock Cable in Field Green

For a family, I would choose this because it is personal: Leather Notebook in Dark Tan

The Explora Blog is the world’s premier online journal for field sports enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, conservationists and admirers of bespoke gunmaking, fine leather goods and timeless safari clothes. Each month Westley Richards publishes up to 8 blog posts on a range of topics with an avid readership totalling 500,000+ page views per year.

Blog post topics include: Finished custom rifles and bespoke guns leaving the Westley Richards factory; examples of heritage firearms with unique designs and celebrated owners like James Sutherland and Frederick Courtenay Selous; the latest from the company pre-owned guns and rifles collection; interviews with the makers from the gun and leather factory; new season safari wear and country clothing; recent additions to our luxury travel bags and sporting leather goodsrange; time well spent out in the field; latest news in the sporting world; and key international conservation stories.

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