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House of Bruar: Perthshire fashion retailer ‘desperately’ seeking new staff

House of Bruar.
House of Bruar.

The boss at Perthshire country fashion retailer The House of Bruar admits Brexit has caused huge issues as it reports a 10% turnover drop.

Managing director Patrick Birkbeck said the business, based near Blair Atholl, has been left desperately searching for staff.

Its employee numbers are down, but Mr Birkbeck said it has been difficult to replace workers who have left or retired.

The firm made it through the pandemic without making any redundancies.

Mr Birkbeck said: “There is a well-documented labour shortage across many sectors, in particular retail and hospitality.

“We don’t have that transient population where people are looking for short-term work.

“We are desperately trying to replace them.”

While other restaurants have been forced to cut their offering due to staff shortages, House of Bruar remains fully open.

“Our team have worked incredibly hard. They’ve got stuck in like you just can’t believe,” the managing director said.

He warned: “You can’t keep going for too long that way.”

Supply chain issues ‘a nightmare’

Mr Birkbeck said the “true effects” of Brexit will take at least another year to be felt by businesses.

Supply chain issues have been difficult for the firm to manage.

The House of Bruar

“The supply chain has been a nightmare,” he said.

“This idea that there was free trade between the countries in the EU – it is just not the case.”

The managing director said the firm has absorbed costs this year, but those increases will inevitably lead to price rises.

He said the firm would fight “tooth and nail” to put off any price increases.

Turnover down 10% as Covid impact felt

Newly published accounts for the destination retailing venue show turnover fell to £23.9 million for the year ending January 31 2021.

That is down £8.6m, from £32.5m in 2019.

Retail operations were “drastically reduced” due to the pandemic, but the sales figure is expected to return to 2019 levels this year.

glorious twelfth economic benefits
House of Bruar managing director Patrick Birkbeck.

The retail premises near Blair Atholl was closed from the end of March until the end of June last year with the country in lockdown.

Even when it did re-open in June 2020, Mr Birkbeck said business in the shop was slow.

The managing director said Covid-19 “severely diminished” The House of Bruar’s results for the year.

Pre-tax profits remained at £3m for the reporting period.

He said: “People were very nervous about coming out. It never really got going last year.

“Then we lost January to April this year.”

More staff are required at the House of Bruar.

In the interim, a significant investment was made to the shop, which has paid off since restrictions were lifted.

Mr Birkbeck said: “It took time for things to kick in – we’ll be up to being as busy as we were in 2019 now, but we weren’t in June, July and August.”

He forecasts that turnover and profits will return to pre-Covid levels.

The food hall has been kept busy, remaining open throughout the pandemic.

It also experienced a boost with more people choosing to staycation this summer.

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