The Hotel Culture

Ray Kelvin CBE, Ted Baker

“…each Ted store is tailored to reflect both his own style and immediate surroundings.” Ray Kelvin CBE, founder & CEO Ted Baker

Born in London, Professor Ray Kelvin CBE is the founder and CEO of Ted Baker. Coming from a long line of family fashion retailers, it could be said that his choice of career was preordained. His first exposure to the fashion trade coming very early in life, working in his Uncle’s menswear shop from the age of eleven, right through the mod-fuelled 60’s,­ his favourite period of fashion.

It was in 1988 when he had the idea for Ted Baker, opening his first store in Glasgow. Starting out as a shirt specialist, his plan was to deliver outstanding attention-to-detail both in terms of his clothes and customer service. From the beginnings of the business in his front room, he has carefully managed the growth and development of the Ted Baker brand ­ensuring that the culture of the business has been retained and nurtured during the rapid growth of the subsequent years. In 2011, Ray was proud to be awarded, by the Queen, a CBE for services to the fashion industry in the New Year’s Honours List. This was closely followed by Ray winning Entrepreneur of the Year at the PLC awards 2012. Most recently, Ray was delighted to be presented with a Business Lifetime Achievement Award and Honorary Professorship by Glasgow Caledonian University London in 2013.

2012 was a busy year for Ted Baker, with the opening of retail stores in Japan, China and Canada, new territories for Ted as well as additional stores in London, New York and Hong Kong. 2013 was just as exciting, as Ted Baker celebrated 25 years in the industry. From sunglasses, wallpaper and watches to luggage, audio, shoes and perfumery, Ray and his team have brought a bit of Ted to every aspect of life. An impressive achievement in anyone’s book that he rather humbly puts down to his very clear, unswerving, focus on quality, attention-to-detail and quirky sense of humour.

THC: What inspires you and why?
Ray: From a scrap of fabric found in Morocco to a pattern spotted in Peru, you never know when or where inspiration will strike. Great ideas can come from almost anywhere, but a lot of my best ‘eureka moments’ have come whilst immersing myself fly-fishing in the calm waters of Salisbury, England. I love it as it gives me time to think about everything I’m involved in and enables me to put my thoughts in order.

THC: How did you get into your business?
Ray: I started out as a shirt specialist in Glasgow back in 1988. My original plan was for Ted Baker to become synonymous with delivering outstanding quality, innovation and attention-to-detail. I achieved this through the clothes, the customer service and finding alternative ways to build brand awareness (including creative window displays, clever marketing tactics and having our own language and culture). Oh, and since Ted has always preferred not to advertise, we are able to reinvest Ted’s passion and energies back into his clothes, stores and – most importantly – his customers.

THC: What are you working on right now?
Ray: Ted’s a man of the world and always looking for new opportunities and new locations for stores all around the globe. From Melbourne and Panama, to Toronto and Turkey, each Ted store is tailored to reflect both his own style and immediate surroundings… to create what we call retail theatre and ensure a memorable experience for our customers.

THC: How do you see your space evolving?
Ray: We continue to carefully manage the growth and development of Ted Baker, ensuring that the culture of the business is retained and nurtured. Every year we endeavour to improve upon the last and the key to Ted’s success (‘people, product, passion, profit’) is always connected to one other ‘P’ that people often forget: personality. We try very hard to bring this out in everything that we do and as we continue to grow, it remains a fundamental measure of the brand’s success.

THC: Who’s your hero or icon?
Ray: My Mum. She taught me everything I ever needed to know about the finest clothing, the art of customer service and how kindness is the key to building a business.

THC: Where’s your favourite spot around the world?
Ray: So good they named it twice, New York (New York) is a wonderful, vibrant town with its own rhythm and heartbeat… Ted has three amazing stores in Manhattan (including an exclusive address on Fifth Avenue), so the city also becomes the perfect launch pad for me to travel to all of my different yet amazing stores across North America.

THC: What’s your favourite injection of culture into a brand?
Ray: ‘British’ is a key part of Ted Baker’s brand identity around the world and as we enter new international markets, we are discovering that this offers clout and consumer desire. So we always endeavour to communicate our British personality and values (if you have good manners it gives you an advantage), whilst continuing to learn more about our global customers and their different cultures.