When it comes to clothes, there’s not many names with a bigger legacy in Aberdeen than Esslemonts.
Since 1858, the Esslemont family have traded in the heart of Aberdeen city centre.
Its long-standing department store, Esslemont and Macintosh, was a core figure in Union Street before the family handed the reins to new owners in the late 90s.
Now, Mark Esslemont, the great-great-grandson of original store founder Peter Esslemont, is continuing the family legacy as the manager of their Thistle Street store.
Mens and womenswear in a variety of casual and formal styles is stocked here, with brands ranging from various corners of Europe.
Its operation may be on a smaller scale compared to years gone by, but continuing to deliver an in-person service amid the internet era is something that Mark is proud of and he enjoys making tailor-made experiences for all of his customers.
“I’ve been here for 25 years with my parents still owning the shop,” says Mark.
“I like being able to satisfy new and regular customers when they’re looking to put new outfits together.
“I have quite a good memory when it comes to helping people with gifts.
“They may come in say that their relative is looking for something new and I can often remember the sizes and styles that a lot of our regular customers like.
“It’s an extra string to my bow, I guess!”
Continuing the family business
Growing up in Aberdeen, Mark studied at college for a brief period of time before going on to work at Jenners in Edinburgh during the early years of his retail career.
For Mark, it was clear from an early age where he saw his future work aligning.
“I suppose I always had an interest in working with people from a young age as I helped out with bits here and there at the old family department store,” says Mark.
“I looked to carry on the family name as I got older and this was something I looked forward to when I was young.
“I worked at the old Esslemont and Macintosh department store on Union Street for three years.
“Then when my father left the department store in 1997, we set up here in Thistle Street in September that same year.”
Esslemonts is much smaller in scale compared to its department store heyday.
But with challenging times affecting the retail industry, Mark believes that this has worked in its favour.
“Running a smaller operation has allowed us to be more efficient,” he says.
“We’ve tightened our belts when we’ve needed to having lasted 25 years with all that’s gone in that time, that’s been a great achievement.”
Inside, a varied selection of casual and formal menswear is at hand for various occasions.
Tailored suits are popular with men and their sons while shirts of all kinds are some of the store’s biggest sellers.
And though Mark says trends in menswear haven’t changed all that much over the last few decades, he likes to add dashes of colour and freshness to the store’s products at the turn of new seasons.
Casual and formal
“There’s a nice mix of casual and formal options,” says Mark.
“Whether it’s bold or classic styled, our shirts are often our biggest sellers and can vary from a smart, business casual shirt to a printed, going out shirt.
“We have Claudio Lugli shirts which are a little more adventurous and prove quite popular. There’s skull printed shirts, flamingo shirts, you name it.
“Elsewhere, we do a little bit of tailoring with suits and jackets and also various jeans and chinos.
“We also have some products from an accessory brand which makes casual weaved belts out of plastic bottles, which are environmentally friendly.”
Connecting with customers
Recently, both the menswear and womenswear options at Esslemonts – which were formerly branded as separate Esslemont and Esslemont 2 stores – have been brought together for a more inclusive shopping experience.
This has allowed Mark to broaden his retail know-how and connect with new customers – including some famous faces over the years.
“Off the back of one or two shows at His Majesty’s Theatre, two people that came to mind are Russ Abbot and Elaine C. Smith,” says Mark.
“I think Russ came in for a casual sports jacket and a shirt while Elaine was in during panto season and bought one or two gifts for her husband.”
With so many retail outlets resorting solely to online trading in recent years, looking ahead, Mark believes that Esslemonts longevity still lies in its in-person shopping experiences.
“Going forward, I think there’s opportunities to grow online. But we’re still confident that there’s a place in the market for small, independent businesses to thrive with in-person shopping experiences,” says Mark.
“Connecting with customers over the years has been something that I’ve relished. Making relationships with suppliers has also been great.
“We want local people to know what we do. So, maintaining our regular clientele and welcoming new customers is what we’re aiming for.”
Esslemonts, 22A Thistle St, Aberdeen AB10 1XD
P: 01224 630606