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Bogart is tailored for another generation of menswear retail success

By Rachel Martin

Published 01/12/2015

From left: Mark Keenan, John Keenan and Gary Keenan
From left: Mark Keenan, John Keenan and Gary Keenan

The Keenan family are proof there's a lot a younger generation can bring to even a well-established business. John Keenan took over menswear retailer Bogart 36 years ago. The shop had been running for eight years when the young Mr Keenan fancied it as an investment for his future.

Nearly 40 years on, there's not much for John to learn about tailoring - but even he his surprised by the buzz his three sons have brought to the business.

Model Jonathan Brooks wears a tweed jacket and slim fit chinos
Model Jonathan Brooks wears a tweed jacket and slim fit chinos

By focusing on the trends captivating the younger market, the three men have brought a new generation of customers into the shop.

Thanks to John's sons Gary (33), Mark (32) and Neil (24), young, chiselled models sporting quilted jackets, waxed coats and tweed are now commonplace both on the store's website and shop windows.

Mr Keenan said: "Years ago young men would have laughed at you if you had shown them a tweed coat or a three-piece suit."

Mr Kennan said his wife was keen for her sons to go to university before they joined the shop.

He added: "I'd have liked them to have come straight into the business but they're all better at talking to customers than me and they have a good eye for things that will take off. The four of us will normally go to the trade shows together and see what we like.

"I'll sit back and take more to do with the figures, looking at what has historically done well, but I'll let them go and watch the shows and tell me what they like."

Eldest son Gary has been involved in the business for around 10 years now. He said that he enjoyed bringing in new trends: "A big thing was the trend for waxed jackets. We have always done Barbour but it was decided that now we should do a lot more of it and bring in newer products.

"Another thing we picked were those beautiful parka coats with the fur hoods. I'm not saying Dad wouldn't have bought them, but we did push for it and they have been really popular."

However things, don't always go to plan, something which the family learned when a large order for coloured trousers exceeded demand.

"The men did not all wear red trousers," John said.

"I think sometimes when you're at the trade shows and see all the bright colours it looks great but then when you get home it doesn't look the same on the wet November streets of Belfast."

The company - which the family say is the longest trading menswear shop in Belfast - has been based in the city centre for 44 years.

Last year the firm took on three extra members of staff, and further changes are said to be in the pipeline, with a major expansion on the cards.

Gary - who moved to Magherafelt to live with his wife - has big dreams for the business and hopes to open a store closer to his new home. He added: "I would like Bogart's to become the oldest family-run department store in the city centre, and I want us to branch out into other areas and get a bigger store."

John's sons also came up with the idea of holding corporate nights. Once a month, a company is invited to a private shopping experience. With gifts, discounts and a tailor on hand to tweak suits, the nights have been a good way for the company to build corporate relationships.

Indeed, since the experience, the company has been able to secure several contracts with councils, car dealerships and football teams.

As John said: "You can buy a ready to wear suit from Next but if you want something that will fit 40 different sizes and shapes you need to go somewhere with a tailor."

The company has also started wedding suits, priced just slightly above the cost of a rental. Gary Keenan credits the deal with expanding the shop's catchment area and bringing a lot of new customers through the doors.

And the company has also put some of their stock online. Gary said: "It tends to be niche items which do well online; tweed bags and coats and the Barbour range." However, with the bulk of sales still made in the bricks and mortar shop, it seems some things will never change.

Belfast Telegraph

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