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The Interview: Harry Jarman, founder, publisher and editor in chief, Gentleman's Journal

Tom Bottomley
18 April 2019

Following the launch of its e-commerce website at the end of March, this week sees the launch of the brand new Gentleman’s Journal shop at 68-69 Burlington Arcade in Mayfair for an initial four-month period. Harry Jarman, founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of the men’s luxury lifestyle magazine, reveals his reasoning behind moving in to retail.

When did you originally launch the Gentleman’s Journal magazine? Did the website launch at the same time?

We started out six years ago, in 2013. We were actually a website first, then we went to print about a year later. It was a bit of an odd way of doing it, but we ended up going in to print because we found that there was a demand for it. The brands working with us were very keen to have a print product. Print is still remarkably strong in the luxury sector.

How would you best describe the Gentleman’s Journal?

It’s a men’s luxury lifestyle title, but the whole basis of it is that we are very focused on investment fashion, and timeless fashion, as opposed to fast fashion. The brands that we tend to work with just make great product. We don’t follow the trends, we just find what we think is good and try to communicate that. They tend to be very much focused around craftsmanship. I wanted to develop a magazine concept whereby you could walk in and it would be wearable fashion. This is a shop interpretation of the magazine.

Gentleman's Journal

Why do you consider Mayfair right for your brand?

It’s good for us as it’s the one place where you can mix business with tourism, and it’s also got a certain cachet. In terms of our reader, which is very much the young wealthy guy, Mayfair is the perfect location.

"The brands that are doing well are very much community led."

With tough bricks and mortar trading widely reported, why do you consider this good timing to go in to retail?

Obviously, there’s lots of challenges, but there are people who are still doing very well. We’re doing it off the back of a very successful business already, so it’s not a huge risk to us, and because we’ve already got that engaged audience, it’s as good a time as any. The brands that are doing well are very much community led. A lot of the brands we are selling in the shop are smaller and more nimble, and are actually doing very well. I think where it’s a tougher is with the bigger businesses trying to adapt.

Gentleman's Journal

How else are you engaging with your audience?

In terms of our subscribers, we launched something in September called the Gentleman’s Journal Clubhouse, which is basically a £70 a year subscription deal. You get all publications – we publish four print magazines a year with a 70,000 circulation per quarter – unlimited content online, and also invitations to our series of talks. We’ve got just over 3,000 signed up for that now from September’s launch. The magazines are distributed across the UK, in airports and the top hotels. We also have a strong database. To buy a one-off copy of one of the magazines off our website it’s £12 per issue.

What going in to retail always a part of the masterplan?

Yes, the way everything is joining today, with technology, publishing and content, it was always part of the plan. It’s actually taken a bit longer than we originally thought. Retail is much harder now, and the brands are having to work much harder. But, if you look around at the successful retail brands, they are very much moving content and developing their communities by giving them memberships and alike. So, we wanted to try to create a 360-degree model where people really enjoyed and wanted to be part of the Gentleman’s Journal.

What was the fashion label you had yourself prior to starting Gentleman’s Journal?

I started a men’s swimwear company called Harry Elliot. It was a lot harder than I thought as I was trying to make it all in Britain. In turns out we make great suits and shoes here, but swimwear was much harder. I set up a factory and everything else, but it turns out we just didn’t have the skillset to develop it, so it was quite short-lived. But that’s where the Gentleman’s Journal idea came from, because I was looking at ways to promote the label. At the time, all the publishers were happy to talk, but they just wanted money, so I rather naively decided to launch my own magazine – which probably ended up being a lot more expensive than a page of advertising!

Gentleman's Journal

Was the clothing something you wanted to go back to then?

I had a dilemma about six months in from starting the magazine to choose either one or other. Swimwear was proving really hard, but the Gentleman’s Journal was really taking off. I wanted to come back to the swimwear so, in a way, with the shop, I’m coming back to clothing. I think it’s a great industry.

What’s the new shop like?

It’s a double-fronted unit at the Piccadilly end of Burlington Arcade, one the larger units in there. It’s about 3,000 square foot I think, with a basement, ground floor and first floor. We’re using the basement as a wine bar where people can come and have a drink in the evenings. We’re also going to be doing lots of events with our subscribers. Then the ground floor and first floor is pure retail.

What kind of brands and products are taking centre stage?

It’s basically all the brands that I’ve worked it for a number of years. A lot of them are independent. They might not necessarily have the money to go and do standalone stores, though some do. They are all brands that I really believe in. I’ve also tried to curate where the pricing isn’t ridiculous. We’ve got a great brand in there called Luca Faloni, which is quite a new cashmere brand, and a leather goods brand called Ettinger – which has been around for years and is third generation family owned. It’s amazing quality. Then we have Crockett & Jones shoes, one of the last Northampton footwear manufacturers that is still family owned, and a great Swedish sneaker brand called North 89. Other brands include Sunspel – a great British essentials brand, and Emma Willis – one of the leading made-in-England shirt-makers on Jermyn Street. It’s not all British, but it’s all brands that I believe offer great value. My number two, Chris Setton, is doing the buying. He was previously at The Chapar.

Gentleman's Journal

Have you needed outside investment in order to do the shop and e-commerce website?

No, we haven’t. We’ve got a profitable media business so we’ve taken some of the money we’ve made and reinvested it. That’s not to say we won’t look at outside investment. We already had some minority investors in the business who have supported us up until now. It may be something we look to do further down the line, but at the moment we’re just building the foundations with this retail trial before we really go ahead with it.

So, you will be looking at potentially finding a more permanent retail space?

Yes, as we want to create a Gentleman’s Journal townhouse which would be for both retail and hospitality. At the moment we are very much looking at the Mayfair and Chelsea areas to do that. It would be a much larger retail concept, and it would be where people can come and have lunch and shop, with a barber and a watch room, and somewhere they can come for an evening drink. We’re talking about a real lifestyle concept brought to life. We will still be doing the magazine, but also demonstrating that in a physical space. It’s not to say we won’t consider turning the Burlington Arcade unit in to a permanent shop. It’s a great location, it just depends how it does.

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