The Scottish family firm with a history dating back to 1840 begins a new chapter. Laings has a vibrant history spanning 177 years and they’ve recently celebrated another landmark moment with the acquisition of Laing stores in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Southampton. Over the past few weeks they’ve been exploring the journey of Laings leading up to 2017 and the start of a new chapter of Laings.
Founded in 1840 Laings has had an exciting history and over the years many changes have taken place. The family-run business is now in the hands of the sixth generation and the Laing family has retained its reputation for sparkling diamonds and luxurious timepieces, but above all else, excellent customer service.
The recent acquisition sees the family business coming back together. The business which split in 2005 has a shared history of 165 years and it is a heritage that they are extremely proud of. Before they begin the next chapter as one company let’s explore the Laings journey, #Laings1840to2017, highlighting the growth of the business and how the company adapted with changing times.
So here’s the story of Laings from 1840 to 2017.
It was in 1840 that Laings was born. Brothers James and William Laing established a business supplying the revered Clydebuilt vessels, which traversed all corners of the globe, with Glasgow-made crockery, silverware and precision instruments.
This is also where their expertise in timepieces began and they were appointed by the Admiralty and the Clyde Port Authority as official clockmakers. They soon expanded into retail and became the jeweller of choice amongst the Victorian gentry.
Their sparkling history had begun!
As the business flourishes, James’ son, Robert, moves the original Merchant City, Glasgow workshop to a new location beside Glasgow Central Station. Several showrooms are acquired, and Robert works on growing the retail side of the business.
James’ grandson William joins the family business in 1938, and Laings opens as a retailer for the first time.
As World War II takes hold, the demand for jewellery hits rock bottom, and Laings begins to sell antique furniture and crockery from their new art deco premises on St. Vincent Street, Glasgow.
As Laings grew in the 1960’s Robert Laing took on the challenge of re-inventing the family business. He devised a fresh motif for the family business with a contemporary image change and a trailblazing approach to retail environments, establishing Laings as the destination for unique jewellery by leading designers.
He also set new standards of customer experience, drawing crowds four deep for a glimpse of a stunning display of Rolex watches sharing a tank with real fish! Laings was the store to shop in.
Stuart Laing joined his father in the early, 1970’s. Now the emphasis was very much on galvanising the Laings signature style of presenting jewellery and watches in a captivating atmosphere.
Laings stores exuded luxury, taking design themes from high-end jewellery retailers in Switzerland and other European trend-setters. By 1991, they introduced the first ever Watch Gallery and, at the time, the only Ring Room in Glasgow.
1971 – 2005
Stuart went on to open a new showroom in 1971 in the Argyll Arcade, Glasgow, known as ‘Stuart Laing Jewellers’. The name changed when his brother Michael joined the business and another store in Edinburgh opened. They continued to grow the company, buying another family jewellers in Southampton and later opening a new store in Cardiff.
In 2005 the family business was split between Michael and Stuart.
Stuart’s daughter Wendy and her husband Joe Walsh joined the business in Glasgow in 2011. With them they brought a wealth of new and exciting brands including Chanel, Breitling, Officine Panerai and Jaeger LeCoultre. Wendy and Joe also launched laingsuk.com bringing the luxury of the Glasgow stores to the online domain. A huge achievement for Laings, the website continues to build on its success in online retailing today.
Laing stores in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Southampton also continued to grow with luxurious make-overs and indulgent jewellery and watch brands joining their portfolio.
Both Edinburgh and Glasgow drew on their years of diamond jewellery expertise and introduced their own unique collections.
In Glasgow there was the Botanic Collection. Created by their own in-house designer, the collection takes inspiration from the beautiful parks and green spaces in the city with intricate floral designs.
The Edinburgh store released a stunning collection of pieces inspired by the ladies of the Laing family. The different designs are infused with the individual character and personality of the family members they represent.
Wendy and Joe bought Laing, Michael’s business (Wendy’s uncle), and in doing so brought in Michael’s son and Wendy’s cousin Richard Laing within the board of directors. The acquisition reunites the two family businesses to become one and Laings as one of the largest independent jewellery businesses operating seven stores across the UK under one brand ‘Laings’. There are three stores in Glasgow’s Argyll Arcade, two in Edinburgh, one in Cardiff and one in Southampton.
Commenting on the re-merger, Joe Walsh, CEO, Laings said: “We’re delighted to have this unique opportunity to ultimately bring the companies back together. Michael and his team have built a very successful business and it’s an honour to build on his legacy and help to take the family business to the next stage of its evolution.”