Richard Hurtley started his journey in the winter of 2005, whilst at University in Exeter. Coming up with the idea of setting up a clothing brand that encapsulated the student lifestyle, over a few beers at a University hot spot. A year later and in Richard's final year, they had secured seed investment from friends and family and started selling a limited edition clothing range, made in Britain. Invoices were printed from the University printers, clothes sold from his garage and they even found a local retailer to sell the range.
This brand became Lions Rampant Sporting (LRS) and grew synonymous with its signature product, the luxury rugby sock. A colourful play on the essential collegiate gym accessory, with limited edition runs and quality UK made provenance. The factory they used was over 100 years old and now on its 4th generation of family ownership. Fast forward to 2008 - Richard had graduated and was starting to grow into a multi-channel sock business, diversifying into tennis, shooting and short socks which were sold at events all over the country, through selected independent retailers and online.
When the brand had got through to the summer of 2009, the LRS brand had decided to rebrand to Lions Rampant and diversify into clothing, with a small capsule collection. Richard also employed some great creative resource as well, through the business K4 Creative. It pre sold its clothing capsule to a variety of independent stores and a large sports/equestrian stockist.
Richard brought on board one of his University friends, Ted to help manage the growth. They lived with Richard's parents and ended up taking over every bit of space they could find - conservatory, sheds, garage, friends houses when they were on holiday... they even put a marquee up in the garden to house excess stock.
Lions Rampant then agreed, with local retailer One Forty in Cranleigh, to take over part of their store and turn it into a pop up concession for Christmas. So dispatching parcels moved from an attic table, to the shop floor display table, in between serving customers. The shop fit took 2 days and cost a whopping £1,200 (including the sales till). It was a great opportunity to apply some of the learning from sales in fields all over the country to a bricks and mortar premises, without the risk...
The events circuit was taking off too. Not only did the team do country events in the summer, like Burghley Horse Trials, Badminton, Henley and The Game Fair, but they started to fill the quieter winter calendar with Christmas fairs, from selling at schools to The Spirit of Christmas, their accessories seemed to end up in more and more stockings. Ted was recording this journey all the way... he should have a TV show!
Clothing and socks continued to be popular sales wise, but the payment terms from overseas suppliers meant that cash-flow grew increasingly challenging. In the autumn of 2009 Richard was at a point where he needed a bridging loan to afford to bring in his Christmas orders. It took an article in The Telegraph shaming the bank for its 'criminal interest rate, to apply the necessary pressure to get the business the loan it needed. But this was a scary period, space was running out and the brand could have ran out of cash in a matter of days... the decision was made, Richard needed to find an investor.
A few weeks later Richard was in the head office of leading lifestyle brand, Joules. He was waiting in reception to meet their brand founder and CEO, Tom Joule, who he had met at Burghley Horse Trials, where they both sold their products. Good news... Tom was interested. He felt the brand was complimentary, offering a broader age profile and new audience. From Richard's perspective it was the perfect partner - Massive multi-channel experience, a fast growing brand, some great mentors... but it was 122 miles away in the Leicestershire.
By April 2010 the deal was done. Ted, Richard and key members of the shows/shop sales team had all moved up to Market Harborough. They traded sheds in the garden for a warehouse and office on the notorious Saffron Lane... Where they remained for 2 years, before moving into the Joules HQ.
It was within this period that Lions Rampant was again rebranded, into Rampant Sporting alongside significant investment that meant the team went from 2 people to double figures and started working with leading retailers, including House of Fraser, Fenwick, Amazon and Shop Direct, as well as launching 2 of their own stores - in Aldeburgh, Suffolk and Exeter, Devon. They were finally a true multi channel retailer, covering retail shows, retail stores, e-commerce and wholesale.
Things developed fast and Richard was fortunate enough to get an insight into the Joules business, where he observed on the board for over two years. The business was growing, as was the team... So they all lived happily ever after? No, that would be too straightforward for this meandering journey. Joules decided in 2012, that they needed external investment to help fund their international growth and as part of the new structure, it was agreed two brands was one too many...
So Richard had 2 months to find a new backer or the trade order book would be undeliverable and that included a new customer - John Lewis! After many sleepless nights, meetings all over the country and late night phone calls, Richard managed to secure investment from sourcing expert and brand owner/licensee The Batra Group. And this is where the brand remains today...