When did you first become involved with Ettinger and Wimbledon?
It was September 1993, I saw a photograph in the FT of Robert Ettinger at the 1992 Wimbledon Championships and wrote to Robert to see if there was a job opportunity at Ettinger. Previously I had worked in the rag trade but I wanted a new challenge, and I hoped that Ettinger would have a position to offer. I was in luck, the company needed support with the Wimbledon license and I worked on the account for 20 years. During that time both the Wimbledon Championships and Ettinger developed into much bigger companies.
Robert Ettinger at Wimbledon Championships 1992
Which other brands or goods did Ettinger sit alongside at the start?
I remember in the early days just how small the retail side was. From memory there was Kent & Curwen (clothing) and Christy’s (towels). The shop was in a rather hot marquee and we were the ones on the tills ringing up the sales, sorting stock etc. It was exhilarating, with us and Christy’s always in friendly competition over who sold the most… and this went on throughout the 20 years! We were selling out and the demand for branded Wimbledon goods was high, but we had no idea what it would turn into.
Did this change over time?
Yes, hugely, the whole retail side grew enormously and many more licensees were appointed including Ralph Lauren (clothing), Slazenger (tennis balls), Links (jewellery), Babolat (rackets and shoes), OH Hewett (clothing) and Rodenstock (sunglasses), to name a few. With more licensees on board, the whole operation became so much bigger, which meant more structure, organisation and people management. The Ettinger collection also grew hugely as along with the classics, new ranges were expected from us each year. We started with the leather wallets, purses, credit card holders and then progressed to making all the keyrings, a few of these pieces are considered quite iconic today, including the small teddy bear keyrings with ball boy and ball girl tennis outfits. We were also making bookmarks, canvas bags, PVC bags, lanyards, wristbands … the products that sold the most were always those with the Wimbledon green and purple logo clearly visible, as this represented the time customers had spent in the grounds, and a symbol of the fantastic experience they had there, watching some of the greatest sportspeople of the time. In the later years we began working on collectable items such a dated products, which always felt like a risk as we had to sell out of the stock but we were never left with anything at the end. With the lower quantities ordered, the dated items became a real treasure to find.
A selection of Ettinger supplied products in 2006
A selection of Ettinger supplied product in 2015
How did Wimbledon itself change over that period of time?
The retail side of things started in one marquee and now they have three purpose-built shops, one of which is open all year round (The Museum Shop), and 11 satellite shops during the Championships, as well as a dedicated web shop. Along with the retail, everything around us was changing, becoming bigger, better and more sophisticated. The restaurants, the VIP areas, the VVIP areas, the press rooms, the TV screens and the crowds of people were drawn in slowly and carefully to stop stampedes. The tennis itself, the clothing was adapting, the equipment, the training, the level the game is now at is faster and more exciting than ever.
Do you have a favourite tennis player?
No, I don’t, really. There have been so many fantastic players in the past and we have so many now. I just love the sport, I used to play myself until injury stopped me in 2010.
Venus & Serena Williams winning the women's Doubles Finals at the Olympics 2012 - held at Wimbledon
Do you still go to Wimbledon?
Yes – I last went in 2015 and am going again this year. It is a very enjoyable experience for me, as without my ID badge around my neck I am part of the crowd. It is such a joy to move around the beautiful grounds, taking time to eat in the Wingfield Restaurant and really enjoy watching the tennis without having to rush around in stock rooms. I made many good friends during my years working there, who I still hold dear. Visiting them for a good catch up and cup of tea is a regular yearly occurrence now… I can’t help myself but I always spend far too much time in the shops seeing what new and exciting items are now on sale!