Cornwall LivingIssue #93

A century of success

With family at its core, the team at Trevails clothing store are experts at the personal approach.

It’s the season for getting together with family and friends, for long winter walks along empty beaches and lazy afternoons in front of the fire. As much as we complain about the cooler months, there’s something wonderful about wrapping up warm and braving the elements. 

“From them (Grandfather and Father) I learned that keeping customers happy is the most important thing.”

One company that stands out to us for its exceptional quality of clothing that will see you through many winters to come, is Trevails clothing store in Truro. Family run since 1919, Trevails is Cornwall’s largest independent clothing store. 

But where did it all start? At the beginning of the 20th century Cornish born Royston John Trevail returned from the Great War with a vision. With advances in the manufacturing industry and the beginnings of mass-production, clothing was evolving into an accessible, affordable and desirable consumer commodity. Royston recognised this and decided to stake his future on the retail trade – it’s safe to say his gamble paid off. 

RJ Trevail didn’t just expect the customers to walk through the door. He had the foresight to realise that in a rural county like Cornwall, you have to take the product to the people. A century before online shopping and home delivery, RJ Trevail would do a ‘country round’ on his motorcycle and sidecar, delivering a selection of clothing to his customers, and returning in a week to either pick up the garments or take payment.

 This kind of personal service has made Trevails stand out in an often-volatile retail industry. Indeed, Geoffrey Trevail, Royston’s son and successor once said: “If your staff are as passionate about what they do as you are, and your customers are well looked after, they will return again and again.”

Today, the business is managed by Olly Trevail, Geoffrey’s grandson and the great grandson of RJ Trevail. Olly started on the shop floor at 16 years old and is more than just a custodian of a family business. He’s created a sustainable operation that is standing up to the modern-day challenges of high street retail. “I was lucky enough to work with both my grandfather and my father,” Olly tells us. “From them I learned that keeping customers happy is the most important thing. Far too often on the high street, the customer is made to feel invisible. Some stores have great products but there’s no welcome, no ‘hello’. The secret to creating a great shopping experience seems to have been forgotten. But with the rise of online retail, the high street simply can’t afford to neglect its customers.”

Trevails has survived the Great Depression of the late 20s and 30s, a World War, the rapid takeover of the fast fashion industry in the 1960s, further recessions, the rise of the information age, and its biggest threat to date – the internet. 100 years on, the store stands at 31-32 River Street and employs 20 staff. It continues to attract customers of all ages and its gift is in not only showcasing quality women’s and menswear, but in its collection of dynamic, fashionable brands that attract a new generation of customers. From GANT, Barbour and Brook Taverner to Tommy Hilfiger, Brax, and Scotch & Soda, it’s this diverse mix of styles that provides customers with a choice that you can’t find anywhere else on the Cornish high street.

From all generations, and from all walks of life, what draws people to Trevails is its ability to make everyone welcome. It bypasses the transactional boundary and retail disconnect that customers can often experience via the internet and instead provides a place where you can touch, try on, visualise and receive expert advice. Put simply, it’s all about trust, honesty and respect: values that are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago. 

This year, Trevails is celebrating its centenary, making it one of Cornwall’s most successful family businesses!

01872 273313

From them (Grandfather and Father) I learned that keeping customers happy is the most important thing.