Leggs Fashion’s co-owner Ann Coxon on continuing the legacy of a 100-year-old family retail business
Darlington’s Leggs Fashion started in 1911 when Scotch Draper George William Coxon built up enough customers to open a physical shop. Today the business remains in the family with his grandson John Coxon at the helm. Now located in a larger store with space for a womenswear floor, it has garnered a loyal following of customers in the local area. Recently the shop was voted as one of Britain’s most loved small high street businesses in ShopAppy’s #LoveLocalDay initiative. Here wife and co-owner Ann Coxon reveals why she believes the bricks-and-mortar store continues to be such a success…
Why do you think customers voted for you as an outstanding local business during ShopAppy’s recent Love Local campaign?
Our customers are amazing. We always knew we had a loyal following, but when covid struck they really showed us their love. As a family business that lives and works in Darlington, we have tried to support the local community and charities whenever possible. It’s really important to us that we give back to the town that has kept us going for so many years. Our customers have also become our friends, even more so through the lockdowns. After all the restrictions lifted, we kept that level of contact going.
How is business at the moment?
It’s steady. We had a fantastic year last year with weddings and events starting up again after the pandemic. There’s been a lot of negative news in the press about the rising cost of living and we’ve noticed that people are being a bit more careful, but we are happy overall.
What are you selling most of in-store?
Our main business is events and we do really well with women’s occasionwear pieces from Kevan Jon, who is based in Halifax. His collection is designed and made in the UK which is really amazing. We have been one of Kevan’s customers for over 25 years and we have a great relationship with him. For menswear it’s all about suiting at the moment for weddings. Our best-selling brands include Guide London, Fratteli and Marc Darcy.
Do you sell online?
We don’t have a transactional website. We tried launching one several years ago and it just wasn’t cost effective. Also, when we closed it down, our sales figures actually increased. We much prefer offering our customers a 1:1 customer service, which is something we’ve found we can provide digitally via Facebook, Instagram and email as well as over the phone. We find you’re able to get much more information about the customers’ needs and we prefer the personal contact.
When did you and your husband start running the business and how has it evolved since you took over?
John came into the business after university, and I followed after that. John’s grandad started the business in 1911 then his parents took over. Things have changed massively over the years – we are constantly evolving. At one time we were a hosiery and lingerie shop, today we stock a wide selection of womenswear and menswear.
Why do you think Leggs Fashion has remained so successful over so many decades?
We think our success is down to our ability to change and evolve while always keeping our customers involved in that process. We also have amazing staff which is very important. In this business you must always be looking at what you can do better. There are some fabulous boutiques around that we know we have to aim to be better than.
What is your key focus for the business in 2023?
To do what we do as well as we can! We want customers to enjoy shopping with us and to find the perfect outfit for their needs. This involves having fun and laughing lots.
What are your longer-term plans to keep the business as successful for the next 100 years?
The next 100 years might be tricky. We have four sons, but none are involved with the business; once we retire that will be the end of our story. Hopefully there will be someone who wants to continue the Leggs story though – watch this space.