Inside Scotland’s Emporium For Fine Country Living: House of Bruar

By CTH Editors

6 months ago

House of Bruar is a Great British Brand 2024


House of Bruar is an entry in our Great British Brands 2024 book. 

House of Bruar: Great British Brand 2024

‘The business was the inspiration of my parents who wanted to create a destination retail space to showcase the best of Scotland. Over the years, as it has expanded, we have always tried to give the customer more than they want. Many customers – many of whom have never been to The House of Bruar in person – buy from us through direct shopping channels, but we don’t ever want to be a faceless enterprise. We want them to know that we are a physical location, not a hidden away warehouse with no interaction. 

‘It’s incredibly important to have a personal touch in every aspect of any correspondence or communication. For instance, my father Mark, who is still very active in the business, has just written a letter to our mail order customers extolling his belief in the physical presence of a shop and what might be termed as old-fashioned shopkeeping. It’s a personal touch in a mail order industry which typically isn’t very personal. 

A woman standing by some rocks in the Scottish Highlands

‘People will say to me, “you’ve got amazing staff, you must train them brilliantly.” You can give technical training but I don’t think you can train personality into people; what we rely on is their character so that when you come to the shop, you are looked after and welcomed. It’s the same for telephone orders: if you’re speaking to someone pleasant, then you enjoy the call. We do use data analysis – we have a company that does our digital marketing and they have algorithms galore – but when we’re producing our catalogues or arranging product on the shop floor it is a hundred percent gut feel and instinct, which comes from my father and Tom, my brother. That’s about creativity, knowing your customer base and finding ways to introduce new customers. It’s the softer side of the business.’ 

Patrick Birkbeck, Director 

Five Proudest Moments

  1. Establishing the brand in 1993 thanks to Mark Birkbeck, who had sold his successful Jumpers line of clothing shops.
  2. In 1995, as we opened the doors of The House of Bruar destination store in Highland Perthshire with 250 guests – while the Atholl Highlanders sounded the canon. It included a food hall, restaurant and sections dedicated to tweed and tartan clothes.
  3. As the retail offering grew, in 1998 the brand sent out its first mail order catalogue (as of 2023, it sends out over 3.2 million hard copy catalogues a year).
  4. Camilla, then Duchess of Rothesay, now Queen, came to the store on an official visit in 2019. 
  5. In spring 2023, the brand launched its first spring/summer catalogue showcasing its own in-house-developed clothing range to great success.

A man and a woman standing by some rocks in the Scottish Highlands

What I’ve Learnt

  • The importance of nurturing relationships, not just with customers but with staff. A team is stronger than an individual.
  • Long-term suppliers are key, so that when something goes wrong, you can pick up the phone and help each other.
  • If you haven’t got the product, you’re not going anywhere. Products need to be inventive, different and good quality at competitive prices.

THE HOUSE OF BRUAR

By Blair Atholl Pitlochry, Perthshire, PH18 5TW

+44 (0)1796 483236

houseofbruar.com

@thehouseofbruar