‘With help from landlords and councils to keep overheads down, businesses can survive’

When Doncaster shop owner Phil Elvin first started working in menswear, people were wore leather ties with piano keyboard designs.    

Pastel shades and Pringle jumpers were all the rage, along with Farah’s slacks.

Phil Elvin, pictured with a customer at Punch Menswear. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-23-10-18-Punch-2

Phil Elvin, pictured with a customer at Punch Menswear. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-23-10-18-Punch-2

That was the face of British fashion we all remember back in 1984, the year of the Band Aid single and the miners strike.

Now, 34 years later, times have changed, but one constant throughout that whole period.

That is the Punch menswear store, one of the longest standing retailers in Doncaster town centre, and located on Wood Street.

Entering the shop, walking past traditional pictures of Mr Punch, as you might expect to see him in Punch magazine, you arrive at rows and racks of modern fashion from a wide selection of brands.

Punch Menswear, Doncaster

Punch Menswear, Doncaster

Punch was established back in 1983. A year later, Phil, from Dunscroft, joined the staff, as a 23-year-old who had previously worked for Clouds, which had been another independent retailer at East Laithgate.

Having already started working as manager of the store, Phil went on to buy out his former boss, taking over as owner of Punch 20 years ago. That was in 1998, the year of the football world up in France, where Michael Owen scored a famous wondergoal, and David Beckham received a notorious red card.

Since then, fashions may have changed, but Punch has reflected those changes over the years.

He said: “In the past things have been quite casual. But the last four or five years have seen the re-emergence of a smarter look.

Phil Elvin, pictured at Punch Menswear, Wood Street. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-23-10-18-Punch-6

Phil Elvin, pictured at Punch Menswear, Wood Street. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-23-10-18-Punch-6

“Times have changed over the years. In the 80s, things were not so brand led – people didn’t care so much about the brand, as long as the look was right.

“Customers come to us because they feel comfortable, and they get good service.

“They may not want to be the most fashionable men in the world, but they do want to be well dressed. 

“We are not about top name designer brands. We are about offering a menswear service.

Phil Elvin, pictured with a customer at Punch Menswear. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-23-10-18-Punch-2

Phil Elvin, pictured with a customer at Punch Menswear. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-23-10-18-Punch-2

“We are trying to be everything to everyone, from footwear, to suits, jeans, jackets, hats – we try to do everything.

“We can sell something for a 16-year-old, but also something for an 80-year-old. It is all about service.

“If I can get a new customer and serve them like and old customer, then hopefully they will become a regular customer. A lot of our customers have come here through word of mouth and we have regular clients.

“I see us as midmarket in price and brand.”

They may not stock the likes of Armani, but Punch does stock a range of mid-priced brands; they sell Edwin for denim and T-shirts, the French casual brand Shevignon for sweatshirts and casual jackets, and the lifestyle brand Renus Uomo for trousers, blazers, suits, shirts, knitwear and casual jackets.

The Italian brand Best Company for polo shirts and T-shirts, will be available next summer.

Phil Elvin, pictured at Punch Menswear, Wood Street. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-23-10-18-Punch-1

Phil Elvin, pictured at Punch Menswear, Wood Street. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-23-10-18-Punch-1

Phil gets his lines six months in advance from showrooms in London and Manchester.

He says polo necks are currently popular, and sold 180 last year. They appeal to a wide age group, proving popular with young buyers because it is on trend, and also selling will with older shoppers who wore them in the past.

Phil sees them as a flexible option, as they will fit well with either a smart jacket or a casual top.

He thinks there is still a place for menswear shops in an era which has seen the rise of internet shopping.

“If you shop online, fair enough,” he said. “But there are things you miss out on. If you come to a shop, you can talk to someone, and you can try things on in a fitting room, and see if it looks good. It is about the camaraderie and I try to make shopping easy for the discerning gentleman.”

Customer Sam Horridge, of Bawtry gave his backing to the store. He said: “I think its a good shop to come to because Phil’s easy to talk to and there’s good service. He doesn’t try to oversell stuff and if he thinks something doesn’t look good, he tells you.”

Phil says he has been helped by changes to the rules on business rates which meant that firms with a turnover under a certain figure do not pay them.

“We’re under the rateable limit,” he said. “I have a good landlord and have a good relationship with him. Everyone knows how hard retail is. With help from landlords and councils to keep overheads down businesses can survive.”

> We are running a series of features on local shops to showcase the many types of store in Doncaster town centre as part of our Love Your High Street campaign.