Our series highlighting some of the best indies in Harrogate continues as we put on our best suit and call in at men and women’s fashion business Preyfour on Parliament Street to chat with owner Paul Lown.
Paul has been in the retail fashion business for more years than he cares to remember. After leaving school, he went into hairdressing but soon discovered he was more interested in clothing people than cutting their hair.
He got a job with the very successful Jonathan Silver company which ran a chain of 11 menswear stores in the north of England. After learning all aspects of the trade – from measuring customers to selling to them – Paul decided he wanted to work for himself and opened a store in Harrogate which operated successfully for 19 years, selling big name fashion brands.
He moved away from the town for a while but then returned and, after working in several retail fashion outlets, opened Preyfour in February 2016 where he has since established a reputation for offering chic and stylish clothing.
His own thinking neatly mixes the personal and the commercial. “It has always been a passion for me to have nice clothes and to sell nice clothes, but you need to get it right and that’s what I consistently try and do. Quite simply, it’s a way of life.”
What’s on Offer
Entering the shop with its polished wood floors and thoughtful displays, the harder you look, the more surprises you discover.
Preyfour’s clothes come with more than a hint of Italian flare, which is not surprising as Paul attends a trade fair in Florence twice a year to ensure he’s up with the fashion trends and to source stock. “I sell easy-wearing jackets, shirts and knitwear that are stylishly cut and hang well,” he says, slipping into fashion jargon as he adds: “It’s all about the drape when a customer tries an item on.”
Shirts are his best-seller with such brands as MIRCAM, Libertine Libertine and Smyth & Gibson. He is the sole UK stockist of G.R.P. a line of polo shirts, knitwear and waistcoats from Tuscany and sells the quality Mac brand of jeans from Germany. Paul is also very keen to support UK manufacturers and sources knitwear from these shores with brands such as Folk and Peregrine.
Preyfour also offers a range of Dude shoes, Knightsbridge ties, socks, jewellery handmade by a friend of his daughter in Brighton, and Fears Watches, made by one of Britain’s older watches manufacturers.
His mission is to have a tasteful, friendly store which ideally attracts customers who understand what he’s about, appreciate the quality and range and who want to come back time after time.
And they do return. Smiling at his own enthusiasm, he tells the story of how he ran down the street after a customer from Nottingham after he found a sweater in the size the customer had been looking for. “Perhaps wasn’t the wisest thing to do but I chased after this customer and sold him the sweater. Then months later, the same customer came into the store and told me he remembered my customer service and bought four cashmere sweaters.”
The incident highlights Paul’s retail philosophy. “There are many people who want a great service and who enjoy getting it and that’s what I provide. People buy from people,” he exclaimed.
Paul would be the first to agree that owning a store in Harrogate attracts the sort of customer he seeks. “The town is a lovely place, after all I’ve come back to it to work and there’s a lot of pride in what we have here. We have great independent retailers and we’re all trying to make it a place where people want to shop.”
It’s clearly working as he points out that he has customers from as far afield as Manchester and London; people who have been visiting the town for business and pleasure and who return because they enjoyed it so much the first time.
Paul is not surprised. His own little Harrogate pleasure is his stroll across the Stray to work in the morning. “When the sky is blue and there’s green all around and you can hear the birds singing, it’s wonderful,” he says. Heal medical and wellness spa is his own favourite indie. “They are always pleased to see you and they always make you feel special,” he says.
His answer demonstrates both the wide range on offer from the town’s indies and also how they can come together to provide a great experience for everyone who lives in or visits Harrogate; in this case you can feel great on the inside and look great on the outside.