When Lands’ End was launched in the UK in 1993, it was already a thriving, all-American clothing brand in the USA. Oakham was chosen as the location because the US headquarters in Dodgeville is also a small town, not a big city, and they wanted to replicate that in the UK. Since then we’ve gone from strength to strength, building a wonderfully loyal customer base, and staff base, along the way.
Lyn Ferguson (61) was our very first employee and helped set the very first UK office up. “I started in May 1993 and left in February 1999,” she said. “To this day I remember being interviewed and I remember really, really wanting the job! After 49 years of work, I’d still say being part of Lands’ End was an opportunity you can’t have dreamed of. Gary Comer, our Founder, had a vision for us to be a big fish in a little pond and to be part of the community, and that’s exactly what he created. Oakham is synonymous with Lands’ End and the other way around. It wasn’t just a job, it was more than a job, it was a way of life.
“The first 6 weeks was spent literally getting the office set up – fax machine, coffee machine etc. We outgrew the first two offices very quickly and then had the current building purpose built. It was very exciting to be a part of! Lands’ End was different to everyone else. We were market leaders – way ahead of all our competitors including Freemans and Marks and Spencer – we were online before them and we offered the fastest delivery.”
And Lyn raves about the clothes: “I’ve always loved the jeans here. They are such a good fit and really good quality. And the Squall jackets, they’re great. I bought my husband one over 20 years ago and he still wears it now. I’ve also got so many Lands’ End gilets – I’ve got a bit of an obsession – they are all a slightly different colour! I bet I’ve bought about 2000 items over the years, and I’ve only returned 2. From the day I started until today, I’m still an avid customer.”
Louise Singlewood (46) was 21 when she joined the company. “I started in Sales, moved into Customer Service and now I’m a Team Lead. I’m also the voice of Lands’ End – if you call up and hear a recorded message, that’s me! The thing I like most about Lands’ End is our customer service – I have always liked our ethos – to do what’s best for the customer. One of my fondest memories is when a particular coat that was very, very popular, sold out. Everybody wanted it and we managed to get some more sent over from America. We rang each customer who had wanted one and told them we had got it for them – the customers were overjoyed and that was a lovely feeling. I’ve stayed with Lands’ End so long because of the people and because I still think our customer service is the best.”
Annette Yates (59) has fond memories of starting here: “It was wonderful in those early days – there was a real camaraderie. When a catalogue dropped, it was amazing – the phones never stopped ringing and there was a real buzz in the call centre. I really enjoy finding solutions for customers – they want something and I try and help them get it. I have had so many thank you letters over the years from customers I’ve helped, and I still do. That’s what I love about my job.”
Jackie Friar (55) joined Lands’ End in October 1993. She said: “I have loved working here over the years. I worked evenings and weekends on the phones when my kids were young, then became a team leader; a product specialist and I now work in facilities, health and safety. Both my kids, have worked here too. One memory I have is when we were asked to go onto a breakfast TV show to talk about how our customer service was something a bit different – we always answered the phones and gave our names, something no other company had done before that. A little while later, we were also one of the first companies to have internet chats.”
Anne Bell (62) also started in October 1993. “It’s gone really quickly!” she says, “My sister was working here on the phones and I knew they were looking for staff in the hemming department, so I started there part time. I enjoy working for Lands’ End and I always have. The camaraderie of working with other people is a big part of it. In hemming we became like sisters all together. We’d all stay and pitch in and help each other – it almost felt like your work colleagues were part of your family. And it was always like that from the beginning.
“I now work in the distribution centre checking the quality of the garments coming in. I think the quality of our products is very good, much better than a lot of places. I wear a lot of Lands’ End stuff, the clothes last. I like the fit of our jeans and the kids’ clothes are fantastic too. It is nice to enjoy where you work. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been here 25 years and I’d like to think I’ll still be here for 30 years!”