Once upon a time…
Alexander Wilkies- the founder of ‘Alexander Wilkies’- was born in 1874, the eldest son of a Fife farmer who insisted each of his 6 children learn a trade. Alexander, along with another 2 of his siblings chose to train as a tailor. The 3 went on to manufacture men’s coats and suits in Edinburgh for the Scottish wholesale market and also made uniforms for the ‘Bantam Army’, this was the Royal Scots 17th Battalion, which was especially for soldiers below the British Army minimum regulation height.
Alexander had premises in Glasgow and went on to acquire property in Shandwick Place, Edinburgh where he founded ‘The Alexander Wilkie house’ in 1898. He married and had a family of 2 sons and 4 daughters. Their eldest son, also Alexander (Alec), studied Economics in London then went on to run the basement floor in Selfridges. He returned to Edinburgh and became a partner with his father in Wilkies. When his father died in 1933, Alec became partner in the business with his mother.
Alec married and went on to have 4 children of his own- Angela, Alexander, Mary and Susan. He served in the war then returned to Wilkies until 1963 when he passed away. After he passed his eldest sister, Connie became Managing Director at Wilkies until her passing in 1966.
Alec’s son Alexander (Alex) started his retail career in Bentalls in Kingston, London in 1959 after completing his National Service. He started in the fabric department then later moved to the fur department where he learned the fur trade before returning to the family business in 1961 where he became the fur buyer for Wilkies large fur department. Alex went on to become Managing Director in 1965. Alex went on to have 3 children- Angus, Fiona and Douglas.
Alex was keen to expand the business and in 1971 opened Wilkies of North Berwick, Falkirk in 1972, Kirkcaldy in 1975, Peebles, Galashiels in 1994 & Largs in 1996 before retiring from the business in 1999.
Of Alex’s 3 children, Angus spent a short time working in Wilkies and Fiona trained to be a nurse but both were on the board at Wilkies for several years. Douglas studied at Galashiels Textile College then followed in his father’s footsteps and trained at Bentalls, Kingston. Douglas joined Willkies as Merchandise Director in 1997 and took over from his father as Managing Director in 1999.
Douglas bought his siblings out to take complete control over the business in 2000. Like his father was keen to expand the business and went on to open a large department stores in Stirling 2000, Helensburgh 2004 and Dundee 2010. Douglas made the decision to step away from retail in 2012 and for the first time ever Wilkies was to be run by someone not within the Wilkies family, Wilkies was sold to the then Operations Director, Karen Forret.
Karen our managing director has been with the business since 1997. When she started in Wilkies of Shandwick place as window dresser and has since worked her way through several different roles whilst studying at Stirling University. Since buying the business Karen has taken Wilkies from strength to strength. Embracing in change to evolve the business and ensure it remains relevant in today’s ever changing high street. The business has expanded under her rein to open a further 6 stores including Castle Douglas 2013, Perth 2016, Ballater 2016, Banchory 2018, Hamilton 2018, Berwick-upon-Tweed 2019 and now our online store in 2020.
As a long established retailer Wilkies has been built on traditional values and has always been lead with an ambitious vision. We are passionately driven to source the very best fashion and brands and to sell them at the fairest price whilst exceeding your expectations on customer service.
…And so the story continues!