This year represents twenty-five years since Robert Ettinger took over as CEO of Ettinger, forty years since he started working in the family firm and eighty-six years since the company was founded in 1934 by his father, Gerry Ettinger.
Robert Ettinger, CEO, with his father's Ettinger attaché case (on the desk) which he still uses
But how did it all begin? Robert was educated in England, France and Austria and he gained invaluable retail and business experience working for Mappins, the jewellers, in Canada and a luxury gift manufacturing company in Germany. He then joined Ettinger.
In 1995, Gerry handed over the reins to Robert to take the company forward as CEO but continued working well into his eighties. A year later, the company was granted a Royal Warrant to HRH The Prince of Wales and this helped pave the way for the future direction of the company as a British luxury brand emerging onto the global market.
Gerry Ettinger, far right.
Key early decisions made by Robert were that the design and manufacture of Ettinger's products should remain firmly in the UK - when many, at the time, were heading overseas and to the Far East in particular - and Robert felt the designs should have a modern take on a traditional product with a very British style to appeal to a growing international audience.
Gary Billingham, Factory Manager, left. Ettinger machinist with a Bridle Hide Billfold, right
He duly set to work and in 1999 the company bought James Homer, a Walsall factory located north of Birmingham that had been in continuous use as a leather goods factory since 1890 and production was moved from London where growing gentrification was pushing factory rents beyond the means of manufacturing businesses.
In 2001, Ettinger joined Walpole, the official British luxury sector body, as one of its early members. This helped expand the business in the UK and internationally. Already well established in Japan, Ettinger has opened its own stand-alone store in the Ginza in Tokyo.
Ettinger's first and only shop in the Ginza, in Tokyo, Japan.
With the factory successfully operating in the original heartland for leather accessories and saddlery, Robert next turned his attention to the London Head Office and created a stunning new luxury showroom and headquarters in Putney, SW15, with views over the River Thames.
Ettinger's Putney Showroom, London SW15.
The next key decision came in 2007 following the emergence of online shopping alongside bricks and mortar retail and in 2008, Ettinger's first ecommerce website was launched. This was quite an early move within the British luxury sector, but twelve years later has put the brand in a stronger position enabling it to reach a larger global audience. To meet the needs of Ettinger's Japanese customers, the website ettinger.jp was also launched.
Ettinger ecommerce site www.ettinger.co.uk.
As the brand has emerged onto the global luxury market, the strength and clarity of its branding also received a re-launch and for the first time in its history, an Ettinger monogram was launched alongside luxurious new packaging.
Ettinger new branded gift boxes in London Tan & Grey with monogrammed tissue paper.
The last five years has seen real momentum gathering for the brand under Robert's leadership and exciting announcements have been made including the 20th anniversary of being granted the Royal Warrant to The Prince of Wales; the opening of the first US Flagship Residency in Turnbull & Asser's New York townhouse; the opening of the Ettinger Accessories Room in Gieves & Hawkes' No.1 Savile Row store; the launch of a Bespoke Service for Ettinger’s small accessories range; the launch of an annual British Men’s Style Multi-Brand Press Day and Robert being named as a 'Legend' in Walpole's inaugural British Power List. Previously Robert has also served as the Chairman of the British Luggage and Leathergoods Association, has been actively involved with The Prince’s Trust and a Mentor for Walpole's ‘Crafted Campaign’, advising up-and-coming young British craftspeople.
Ettinger's new Bespoke Service for wallets, card cases and a key fob.
In summary, Robert has led the company through globalisation and digitalisation with a commitment to keep his manufacturing in the UK. He has resisted the temptation to move production to the Far East and utilises the historic British skill set handed down from generation to generation to not only produce but also to design his products. This gives them an edge of special Britishness.
Looking towards the future, COVID-19 has proved that companies need to be flexible, make decisions in short time frames, have a clarity of leadership and great teamwork. Robert hopes he can inspire and lead his team through the pandemic and into the future.
So, here's to Robert's 30th anniversary as CEO in 2025!
Ettinger's collections are handmade in the UK at its factory in Walsall which is 8 miles north west of Birmingham in the Midlands. The factory has been in continuous leather goods manufacturing since 1890. It takes five years to fully train an Ettinger craftsperson and the company runs an apprenticeship scheme alongside its highly skilled team.
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