THE GENERATION GAME
For 116 years, the name Lister Horsfall has been synonymous in the jewellery trade for quality craftsmanship; quality products and above all quality service. beyond caught up with Managing Director Nick Horsfall, the fourth generation in the family to run the business and discovered the secret to their longevity in such a tough and everchanging high street market.
Nick Horsfall leans back in his leather chair, takes a sip of his Yorkshire tea and raises his mug to a photograph of the man looking down at him.
“If it wasn’t for him,” explains Nick, “We wouldn’t be sitting here now. I like to think he’d be proud of where we’ve come and the fact we’re still in the same building where it all began 116 years ago.”
That man is Nick’s great grandfather Thomas Lister Horsfall who in 1902 began the family dynasty that has been running like clockwork ever since. Following in the footsteps of Thomas, his grandfather Walter and father Richard, Nick took over the reins of the business in 2006 having spent the previous five years learning the trade from his dad.
So, in a day and age when so many high street shops collapse from the onslaught of online competition, what has been the secret to their longevity?
Nick said: “I’ve been incredibly lucky to have followed in the footsteps of three generations of jewellers who created a successful business based on good relationships, trust and honesty.
“It is these principles that have always been instilled into each family member and all the staff who have worked with us over the years.
“Add in the fact we are stockists of some of the most prestigious watch and jewellery brands in the world and we have built up a customer base that in some cases goes back as long as the business.”
That down-to-earth and friendly approach is evident as Nick shows us round the stunning showroom in Halifax where an extensive range of jewellery including the highest quality diamonds and wedding bands sit alongside the world’s finest watches such as Rolex, Breitling, Omega, Tag Heuer and Longines.
But while much credit goes to his ancestors it is the vision of Nick which has helped steer the business through one of the worst economic periods ever.
By combining the heritage and reputation built up over 100 years with a fresh and modern approach to jewellery, Nick has succeeded in delivering a unique experience to those looking for the customer care of yesteryear with forward-thinking ideas of tomorrow.
With luxuriously appointed shops in the beautiful and historic towns of Halifax and Ilkley, he has helped take the business to a new level by expanding both showrooms in recent years and introducing dedicated bridal areas and Rolex lounges for customers to enjoy.
It has been that ability to react and adapt to an ever-changing retail environment whilst continuing to stock the best quality brands and deliver the highest quality service to his loyal customers that has seen the business continue to grow.
He said: “Since taking over the business 12 years ago, retail has gone through one of the toughest times in history. This has inevitably presented different challenges but at the same time different opportunities.
“As a business we have history on our side and a reputation for looking after our customers but that counts for nothing without the right staff, the right stock and the ability to embrace new technology, marketing ideas and continually improve customer care.
“The high street is facing new challenges every day in the way that people shop. In one sense we are lucky as the products we sell have a high residual value and we have retained the confidence and trust of our customers who return again and again.
“But the challenge for an independent business like ours is attracting new customers who have been brought up with an online shopping mentality and it is getting that generation through our door that is key to our continued success.
“Nobody knows what is around the corner, but I think we’ll see a dramatic shift with larger brands disappearing and smaller independent shops, with their personal service, enjoying a resurgence.”
Nick believes the customer’s knowledge of jewellery and watches is also much greater than ever before and so delivering the best brands in a unique way has never been more important.
“If people are investing so much money in a product, they want to know they are coming somewhere they can trust from the minute they walk through the door and come away with not just a beautiful watch or item of jewellery but also somebody then can call a friend.
“The biggest lesson I could give somebody and one that has been passed down to me for generations is ‘never think you have got it right and keep focussing on what can be improved.
“If you can manage to do that, you will keep moving in the right direction.”
With that approach, don’t bet against Lister Horsfall still serving their customers in another 100 years.