The Joules story began in 1989 when Tom Joule started selling clothing on a stand at a country show in Leicestershire.
Tom knew his customers very well (a lot of them by name) and could see that the clothing they were wearing was very practical but lacked an edge. There was a huge difference between functional, built-to-last clothing and the bright and colourful styles that could be seen in towns and cities, there was nothing for people who wanted a balance of style and practicality.
Tom and his small team were living the life his customers were leading, so they were constantly overflowing with ideas and inspiration. They set about reinventing traditional British clothing by adding twists to classic pieces. Many of Joules’ garments had an element of surprise – a purposefully mismatched button, a contrast colour hiding underneath a collar or even a printed lining.
Joules soon became the talk of the town (and country). People had begun to discover a brand that could satisfy their need for quality whilst retaining a sartorial edge. Customers found that these classic styles complemented their lives perfectly, come rain or shine. Woodland walks, picnics on the beach, cosy nights in and journeys to school, were all becoming more colourful.
To satisfy growing demand, Tom placed a big (in fact, it was huge) order for shiploads of bright, new products. Everything was looking rosy until disaster struck.
In 2001, the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease forced every rural show and event to be cancelled and left the team with lots of stock and nowhere to sell it. But bursting with an entrepreneurial spirit, Tom and his team loaded up their cars and drove around Britain – from the Cotswolds to Cornwall – persuading clothing shops to buy and sell the items.
This business venture was more successful than Tom and his team could’ve ever wished for. And a new wholesale customer base was left hungry for more.
The following year, at country and equestrian shows, Tom built a database of loyal customer names and addresses that he fed into a very basic mail-order system.
Soon after, a Joules store opened in Market Harborough, the mail-order business was up and running and it wasn’t long until a website was launched. Joules was growing and so was a team of hardworking people, many from the local area and many who had known Tom for a long time.
"All we’ve ever done at Joules is stay true to our values. Delivering fun and quality, for families enjoying time together."Tom Joule
Shops soon began appearing in the market and coastal towns around the country, whilst the wholesale arm of the business began to flex its muscle too – John Lewis and Harrods were keen to jump on board. The team outgrew its first base at a converted cowshed at a farm in Market Harborough and moved just up the road to much bigger buildings. This enabled the brand to flourish and now house all of Joules’ teams, from design and print to HR and finance.
It wasn’t long before Joules attracted an international audience. On the back of wholesale success in North America and Germany, dedicated websites for both countries were created. Joules had gone global.
As Joules grew, so did its collections. Children’s and baby collections were followed by accessories and homeware – colour and print livened up everything from shirts and stationery to baby grows and bedding.
In 2016 this continued success led to Joules’ flotation on the stock market to raise further investment for more store openings and strengthening the collections Joules offer.
Joules’ journey has not been an easy one. An ever-changing retail landscape has offered numerous obstacles to a growing company, but Joules are prouder of where they’ve come from than ever before. As a brand and business, they’ve stayed true to their roots and never left Market Harborough – the charming market town where it all began.
Tom is now Joules’ Chief Brand Officer, driving a highly-talented team of people forward with as much passion and enthusiasm as he did when he first stood on a clothing stand at a country show in Leicestershire way back in 1989.