Abrahams - something different in store at Kirkby Lonsdale
- Credit: Archant
From lingerie, landscapes and now lifestyle, Josie Beeson is running the successful Kirkby Lonsdale store, Abrahams. Rebekka O’Grady reports.
Millions of women have reason for being grateful to Josie Beeson. After graduating, she worked for Courtaulds Textiles in Lancaster designing lingerie for Marks & Spencer.
She was so successful, she became a senior designer, relocated to London and took over the of planning some of retailer’s most popular lingerie collections in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, her career has taken a new turn and she has returned to the north west.
After learning that the owners of renowned high-end clothing store Abrahams had decided to sell their Kirkby Lonsdale shop after 12 years, Josie decided to buy it.
‘I was dumbfounded that they were selling,’ she said. ‘It was such a lovely store. I never thought in my whole life that I would become a shop owner, but I decided to use my inheritance to purchase it.’
And with her husband, JAC, a successful IT management consultant, and her skills as a designer with a keen eye for the unusual they embarked on a new adventure.
The couple decided to keep the name but put their own stamp on it by turning it into to a lifestyle store, offering popular brands such as Barbour alongside unusual labels and products you might only find in specialist boutiques and stores such as Liberty in London.
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‘We have been amazed how successful our first 18 months have been,’ she said. ‘I’m finding that local people are coming in on a weekly basis as they can now find what they want or be inspired by our choice of exclusive merchandise without travelling to Leeds or London. New customers are also delighted to come across such an unusual store.’
As well as enjoying the business, she also loves the location. ‘It’s a beautiful town, such a destination. People come from all over to visit here as we are right on the borders of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. I think our brand fits in well with the town as there are plenty of other independent shops and restaurants here.’
Josie developed a love of fashion at a very young age through her mother, who was always impeccably dressed and stylish. Said Josie, who grew up in the village of Tunstall in the Lune Valley: ‘She subscribed to Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar which I pored over every month. This fuelled my desire to be involved in the fashion world. After completing an art foundation course at the then Preston Polytechnic, I moved to London to study fashion design.
She went to work for Courtaulds. ‘Like many textile companies in the late 1990s, Courtaulds suffered from the high cost of manufacturing in the UK. I was becoming disillusioned so I resigned from the company in 1994.’
During this break from work, she married JAC, and had three children – Joseph, 21, Francesca, 18 and Georgina, 14. The couple had been living in London for ten years, but in 2002 they decided to return to their roots in Lancashire, moving to the village of Melling and starting her next career – garden design. This chapter in Josie’s life saw her design the Cloisters garden at Lancaster Cathedral as well as local gardens while juggling the needs of a young family and ageing parents.
‘It was then in 2015 that the opportunity to buy Abrahams came out of the blue,’ she said. Today, Josie is responsible for all the buying for the store, visiting trade fairs and showrooms in the UK as well as travelling abroad several times a year to source exclusive brands and luxury items.
‘We recently visited Paris and Morocco as we know that, to stay ahead, we need to be constantly offering our customers a new and diverse selection of products from around the world. Even on our personal travels we are always making contact with various designers.
‘We have sourced embroidered bags and the finest silks from India, along with numerous small clothing labels which change depending on the season. I am continually taking on board what the customers want, the little details, always providing a personal service. We are determined to make Abrahams the destination for those who seek quality, exclusivity and style.’