Take a stroll through the heart of Hereford and you’ll no doubt pass a glorious black-and-white building that would look very much at home on the set of a BBC period drama. The Tudor building is home to Philip Morris and Son, a wonderfully eclectic emporium that is run by John Jones and his brother Bruce.
Certainly Wood decided to catch up with them at this busy time of year to find out more about this iconic business.
Tell us about the history and development of the business?
Philip Morris & Son began as an ironmonger’s in the centre of Hereford in 1845 and remains a family business operating from the very same location to this day.
Over the years the business has grown and diversified, becoming a small department store specialising in country clothing. We’ve also moved with the times and established an e-commerce arm that now accounts for the majority of our turnover.
Our product range is varied, as you’d expect from a local department store, and we cover home, garden and country. We stock all sorts of things – from wood screws to tweed coats, toasters to shotguns, but with a strong focus on quality brands coupled with traditional customer service.
How do you support Herefordshire businesses?
The partners at Philip Morris & Son are heavily involved in supporting other local businesses. I’m a founder and current chairman of the Hereford Business Improvement District, a body which works to improve and promote Hereford as a destination, as well as representing nearly 500 local businesses.
I’m also chairman of a joint initiative call ICM in the city centre, which brings together the council, police, fire service and other partners to help reduce crime and antisocial behaviour. We also try to support local good causes and provide work experience opportunities for schools and the blind college.
Who runs the business today?
The business is now run by myself and brother Bruce, along with a supportive management team. I look after finance, marketing and the traditional retail side of things, whilst Bruce looks after warehousing (goods in and e-com despatch), customer service and all our facilities.
Our parents (Maurice and Bunty) are the senior partners and still involved in key decisions, but not active in day to day roles.
What is special about Xmas for the business?
It’s manic! Despite being such a busy time of the year, all our staff love Christmas. The constant interaction with customers, from the moment we open to the moment we close, creates a bit of a buzz.
These days, it’s a vibe that continues all the way through to the middle of January as people are so tuned in to sale shopping. Once we get to February, it’s time to step back and draw breath again!
Tell me about your relationship with Certainly Wood?
We first started working with Certainly Wood about five years ago after meeting Nic at a networking event – he then joined a group of local internet retailers who meet four times a year to share their knowledge. As two businesses firmly rooted in the heritage of rural Herefordshire, we share a very similar ethos and there has been a great deal of mutual benefit in the knowledge shared.
We also sell Certainly Wood products and, looking back, it seems strange that we didn’t start to stock Flamers earlier, given how sales have taken off for us and how unbelievably well they sell (but then they are a great product).
Where is the business going in the next 10 years?
Having been situated in Hereford for 170 years, we’ve no plans to move and we’re looking forward to an increasingly bright future for the store given the city is enjoying a resurgence as a retail destination.
We’ll also continue our online business, bringing together our traditional approach to customer service with the most modern technology and marketing there is to offer.
What is the most unusual / most Xmassy / most popular thing you sell?
Wellington socks always amaze me at Christmas – there can’t be many people in Herefordshire who haven’t, at some point, had a pair of boot socks from us!
Log baskets always sell well at Christmas too, whilst casserole dishes seem to be huge this year. Believe it or not, our bestselling line in the whole shop is bin bags!