Mark Robertson | What Perth Means to Me

Mark Robertson | What Perth Means to Me

Mark Robertson is the founding director of Robertsons of Scotland, a luxury clothing brand specialising in cashmere, tweed, and waxed waterproofs. The brand ethos is pared back indulgence, with high-end fabrics and a limited colour palette bringing the exclusivity Mark set out to achieve.  

Based in Auchterarder in rural Perthshire, the direct-to-consumer and wholesale business has grown to serve an international audience since it launched in January 2019 and is currently set to move into a new, purpose-built studio.

Mark hails from Perth, and having spent many years travelling as he built his career, he has returned to the fair city to raise his daughter, and grow his business. 

How did the idea for Robertsons of Scotland come about?

I’ve worked with multiple corporates over the years, largely in oil and gas, manufacturing, and exporting. I’ve always wanted to fly my own flag and see my brand placed all over the world.

I worked in manufacturing for over 20 years and had an understanding of factories and how they work. I knew I wanted to create a distinctly Scottish brand – people all over the world love Scottish products! I’d been lucky enough to meet Peter Toner, the man responsible for growing Harrods online, when I worked at EMI and he gave me the idea for doing two colours and a clean, simple, brand identity. It inspired the whole brand.

You’ve travelled extensively over the years; what made you decide on Perthshire as a base for your business?

Choosing Perthshire as my base was easy; I’m a Perth boy and it’s important to me that my daughter grows up with me at home. I didn’t want to travel the world with kids. When you travel a lot, you realise where your heart is – this is home for me.

But of course, it had to be right for the business, and it is. There is a huge kudos attached to being based in Perthshire. Canada, Scandinavia, the States, Japan – they all love it. It gives weight to the brand.

You look around and it’s uninterrupted scenery and a beautiful backdrop for photoshoots. When we’re at international shows it gives us a way to connect to people and offers an authentic talking point. And of course, we’re neighbours with Gleneagles Hotel so I’ll meet our manufacturing and wholesale customers here, which is always well received!  

Logistically, we’re located in the heart of Scotland which means I’m no more than an hour or so away from our manufacturers. This was crucial to the business because it meant I could have a personal relationship with the people who were at the heart of our process.

And how important is that close relationship with your manufacturing partners?

I’d say that it has been the single most important decision we’ve made. 

Building strong relationships with Scottish factories has allowed us to create the quality and luxury that we need to differentiate ourselves on the international stage. We work with Halley Stevensons

for our waxed cotton who service brands such as Dubarry and Barbour, and our cashmere products are manufactured in the same Scottish mills as international fashion houses such as Burberry, Hermes and Chanel.

We now have new stock dropping every quarter and our factory partnerships help us deliver on our promises. During covid, these relationships kept our business alive.

What have been the most important lessons you’ve learned in the past two years?

Well, the thing about success is that once you’ve achieved it, you have to maintain that drive and learn how to adapt.

When we started, we had over 25 product lines but we soon realised that servicing this was eating into our margins. We forecast and plan orders at least six to nine months ahead and so, when we sold out of specific lines, we’d have to wait 18 months to restock; it was a missed opportunity.

We took a good look at what was working – you must be brutally honest with yourself – and decided to cut back to around 50 lines and do higher runs.

At the same time, we looked critically at all of our costs and stripped back anything we didn’t need; it meant taking on a little extra ourselves but it has paid dividends and we’re now leaner, and far more focused on the market we’re in.

We sell direct to consumer via our online shop and have a wholesale arm which supplies to select brands whose values align with our own.

What is next for Robertsons of Scotland?

Growing internationally. When we started, about 20% of our customer base was outwith the UK. Now, it’s around 50%. Export is our big focus for the next two years and we’re busy converting an outbuilding at our new home to give us more space and to cut down on overheads as we prepare to ramp up our international presence. 

We plan to tap into the Beyond Scotland Market Development Grant and the Green Recovery Capital Development Grant available here in Perth & Kinross to help us make these things happen – another great reason to be based here!

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