Glenmuir’s heritage in safe hands

Glenmuir’s history can be traced back to 1891 when the company was founded in Lanark, Scotland. In 2001 Glenmuir was acquired by the Ruia Group, but instead of simply taking the brand and switching manufacturing to third parties in the far-east, the decision was made to continue to manufacture in Scotland and to remain true to the heritage of the brand in terms of style and fabrics.

Mikhel RulaCurrent managing director Mikhel Ruia explains, “This is essentially a Scottish family run business and that’s the way we want to keep it. Glenmuir is a premium brand with our focus on creating classic and elegant golf clothing with impeccable care, skill and dedication to the craft. We use traditional and natural materials such as lambs-wool, cashmere, cotton and merino wool. We will use synthetic performance fabrics for our performance shirts and outerwear, but performance fabrics are not at the heart of Glenmuir.”

The company is still based in Lanark and employs 95 people. “Everyone here is passionate about golf with the average handicap being in single figures across our team. We take a craft approach to manufacturing and many of our people have been with the firm for decades; we have a very low rate of staff turnover. Our apparel is strictly designed for golf, we don’t cross over into the general retail market for clothing”, says Ruia. In addition to the Glenmuir brand, the company became the European distributor of the Sunderland of Scotland outerwear brand in 2009.

Ruia himself is a relative newcomer to the business having been with the company just over a year. “I read economics at Durham where I also played on the University golf team. I then joined JP Morgan for a number of years as an investment banker in London advising large retailers as well as consumer and luxury brands. But last year my father called and said that there was an opportunity to run Glenmuir with the previous MD retiring in 2013. I thought about it and decided that this was an outstanding opportunity to work with a unique brand and a fantastically experienced team, which would allow me to actually practice what I had been preaching to clients in terms of best business practice. It’s a prestigious company and it was too good an opportunity to miss.” Describing the business Ruia says, “There’s no grand hierarchy here, it’s a very ‘flat’ and meritocratic structure. Everyone can voice an opinion and all opinions count.”

Glenmuir maintains its own direct sales force in the UK and doesn’t market through a distributor. “Half of our sales are from the UK market and we have nine sales representatives covering the country. We sell mainly through green-grass outlets, which are our primary focus and a few off-course retailers. Having a strong direct sales force means we can build a robust rapport with PGA professionals who we see as partners, which is important for repeat business. We also have a strong presence in club, corporate and event crested merchandise with artwork design, embroidery, hand finishing and pressing all taking place at our Lanark headquarters, maintaining complete quality control. Our stock service and quick turnaround means we always deliver on time, so our customers know they can rely on us.”

The other half of Glenmuir’s sales come from overseas mainly from Europe, but Ruia sees this evolving. “We see great potential for the Glenmuir brand in the far-east, particularly China and Japan. Scottish brands have an enormous cachet there and of course Scotland is after all the home of golf. We really hope to boost our profile through our association with the European team at the Ryder Cup this year”, (see side panel).

As well as providing shirts and sweaters for successive European Ryder Cup teams for 27 years, Glenmuir is sponsor of the PGA Professional Championships for both men and women in an association going back 22 years. “A lot of our customers take part in the championships and this is our way of giving something back to the game, because the PGA pro is at the heart of our business. The PGA has been very supportive of us so it’s a mutually beneficial partnership”, Ruia confirms.

Ruia admits that trading over the last couple of years has been challenging. “2012 and 13 were difficult years because of the general economic climate coupled with adverse weather hampering sales. But 2014 has been very good so far. We’ve just launched our spring-summer 2015 collection and the reception has been really excellent. The focus is on classic lambs-wool, merino and cotton knitwear and quality shirts in a broad range of colours and sizes. The collection has received high praise from a number of retailers with sales on the increase in prestigious outlets such as Gleneagles, The Belfry, The K Club and Royal Porthcawl.”

For the future Ruia, who is the third generation to be in his family’s business, has a positive outlook for the Glenmuir brand. “This is a great heritage business and my family are custodians of the Glenmuir brand. The Ruia family has an involvement in textiles going back for generations and we are proud to carry on the values of Glenmuir, bringing its qualities and tradition to a wider customer base around the world.”

Glenmuir’s rich association with Europe’s Ryder Cup team

Glenmuir has been supplying the European Ryder Cup Team with shirts and knitwear for 27 years, since Europe’s famous first victory on American soil in 1987 at Muirfield Village. The design department in Lanark have designed Europe’s teamwear in conjunction with successive Captains including Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Seve Ballesteros, Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, José María Olazábal and now Paul McGinley.

Ryder CupMikhel Ruia comments “The preparation for the Ryder Cup in terms of clothing for the teams really started back in February 2013 and is an ongoing process. We work hand in hand with Mr McGinley taking his feedback on board. It is great to work with a Captain who really gives us good ideas and knows exactly what he wants whilst taking Glenmuir’s design expertise on board. We can then combine his input with the skills, passion and expertise of Glenmuir’s design department.”

For what it means for Glenmuir to be the supplier of Europe’s teamwear Ruia says, “Given the Ryder Cup is also in Scotland this year, the home of golf, it is extra special for Glenmuir as we are proud to be able to take inspiration from Scotland for the team kit designs, which matches Glenmuir’s rich Scottish Heritage.

“The Ryder Cup is one of the world’s greatest sporting events and it is imperative that when we design the shirts and knitwear for the European team, they must meet the demanding performance standards required to play in the intensity of the Ryder Cup matches. The clothing must not only be of superior performance and quality but they must also look stylish on the course. The Ryder Cup always generates a lot of interest in terms of what the US and European teams are wearing and we really relish and encourage that and ensure we keep the team designs under lock and key literally here at Glenmuir!”