Philip Day is a famous British entrepreneur who has turned Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group into one of UK's most successful fashion brands, and one of the largest employers on the high street. The group now employs more than 23,000 people across the UK. Born to a working-class family in Greater Manchester, he grew up on a council estate where he saw how difficult it was for his parents and friends’ parents to find jobs – something that would end up guiding his future career and business strategy. He was drawn into business because of its ability to create jobs and improve people's lives. Although not much is known about his childhood, he clearly wanted to create a better life for himself and his family, and held down a number of part-time jobs while at school and is said to have done newspaper rounds as a young boy. Starting from the lowest rung of the retail ladder, he went on to become Managing Director of global fashion-brand Aquascutum, building a name for himself in the industry as someone with an uncanny ability to understand the needs of shoppers and a passion for supply chains. Known for his persistence, determination and positive attitude, he raised the money to buy high-street fashion brand Edinburgh Woollen Mill in 2002, surprising many people at the time, and successfully turned around the company through investment and opening more stores. Philip has gone on to build a profile as an expert at buying failing high-street stores, investing in them heavily, and creating new jobs at the same time. In 2012, he put £200 million of his own money on the line to acquire fashion chain Peacocks, saving 6,000 jobs, and within 5 years of ownership, the chain employed more than 12,000 people. Philip also owns Jane Norman, Austin Reed, Jaeger, Ponden Home, ProQuip, and is said to be on the lookout for more. Philip has also bucked industry consensus and recently opened up a new chain of department stores ‘Days’ in the UK, which he plans to expand over the coming years. He is also passionate about charity and, although he maintains a low profile, is a supporter of a number of cancer charities, including Cancer Research UK, and The Percy Hedley Foundation. He has also financially supported football club Carlisle United F.C. for more than 10 years and has said in the past that sport plays a hugely important role in community life. Edinburgh Woollen Mill is also the main shirt sponsor of the team. He is also passionate about the environment, and has planted more than half a million trees over the last 10 years, conducted research into the preservation and reintroduction of endangered and disappeared species through his wildlife sanctuary, and built one of the largest renewable energy Anaerobic Digesters in the world in Penrith, UK.
Childhood & Early Life
Philip Day was born in October 1965. He grew up on a social housing council estate in Greater Manchester.
Not much is known about his background, but what is clear is that he had a very humble upbringing.
He was originally inspired to go into business because he saw that his parents and his friends’ parents found it difficult to find jobs. He saw business as a way to provide people with opportunities and employment.
As a teenager, Philip held down a number of part-time jobs while at school, including running a newsagent’s and doing several newspaper delivery rounds per day.
The drive to work meant that his academic studies suffered, and he turned down a place at university to pursue a career in business instead.
Philip worked for British textiles company ‘Coats Viyella’ and ‘Wensum’, before being headhunted to join iconic British tailors, Aquascutum, at the age of 28.
He stayed at Aquascutum for five years eventually being promoted to joint managing director.
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In 2001, Philip Day joined Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM), where he led a buyout of the company backed by Rutland Fund Management, a private equity firm.
He surprised the fashion world a year later when he bought out Rutland with the support of HBOS through a £69 million bid. At that time he saw a lot of potential in the brand, which had struggled on the high street because of the lack of a strategy and underinvestment. He immediately focussed on the turnaround on the business, becoming famous for his hands-on approach and going out to visit stores himself.
Philip saw the need to invest in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill stores and in training the staff. He turned the company around and it was back to profitability within a few years, after which he turned to new acquisitions as a way to drive growth.
In 2008, Philip bought Ponden Mill, a home furnishings company, and soft textiles company Rosebys, which were both operational at the time. The stores were later rebranded ‘Ponden Home’ across the UK.
EWM acquired Scottish golfing brand ProQuip in 2009 for £750,000 and brought back the company to profitability a year later, with a turnover of between £2 million-£2.5 million.
Philip went on to save another company, women’s fashion chain ‘Jane Norman’ in 2011. At that time the acquisition was called a “surprise” bid by the press, with the deal reportedly saving 400 jobs.
In 2012, Philip put £200 million of his own money on the line to acquire fashion retail chain Peacocks and save 6,000 jobs. He invested heavily in the chain and within 5 years of owning the business, Peacocks employed more than 12,000 people. EWM Group said it planned to invest in the brand and open a total of 200 stores by early 2018.
In 2016, historic men’s tailor ‘Austin Reed’ collapsed into administration. Philip acquired the company, saying that he planned to invest more than £100 million into the brand, opening 50 new stores by 2019, including a new flagship store in Central London.
EWM also acquired Jaeger from private equity firm Better Capital in 2017, after the company faced “difficulty” and collapsed into administration. Day said that it was part of EWM’s plan to open a new chain of department stores.
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In May 2017 in Carmarthen, the county town of Carmarthenshire in Wales, Philip Day opened the first of a new brand of department store, Days, sited in a building that was a former British Home Stores.
EWM plans to invest in a further 50 openings over the coming years.
Philip has built a profile for himself as someone who is bucking the trend of high-street closures and setting himself and his business apart through investing in companies and local communities while others pursue an online-only strategy.
The EWM Group now employs more than 23,000 people across its stores and brands.
Philip has built Edinburgh Woollen Mill into one of the most successful fashion brands on the high street by investing in the company, and acquiring and turning around other brands, such as Jaeger, Jane Norman, Peacocks, and Austin Reed.
Founding UK department store, Days, bringing all of these brands under one roof, has bucked the trend of companies deserting the UK high street.
Awards & Achievements
In 2017, he was listed in the Drapers list of the most influential people in global fashion. He was listed at number 37.
Philip is married to Debra Day, and they live in Dubai, UAE. Philip and Debra have three children.
He has been a director of a number of other organisations including Carlisle F.C., the local football club where he used to live. He has supported Carlisle F.C. financially for more than 10 years and Edinburgh Woollen Mill is the team’s main shirt sponsor.
Though not a big football fan, he believes that sport plays a hugely important role in community life, and it is important for the city that it has a successful football team. For many years he has also supported local sporting events that encourage children to take up sports such as rugby, badminton, athletics and football.
Although he keeps a low-profile about his charitable work, Philip appears to be very passionate about helping to find a cure for cancer and has given more than £5 million to a number of cancer charities, including Cancer Research UK, over the years. He is also a supporter of The Percy Hedley Foundation.
Philip is passionate about the environment and planted over half a million trees in the last ten years. He also owns The Scottish Deer Centre, which conducts research into the preservation and reintroduction of endangered species.
Philip was fined when a groundsman cut down 41 trees on his property without his knowledge. This resulted in a fine of nearly £1 million. The Property Law Bulletin later wrote that there was “little question the fine was out of all proportion to the damage caused.”
Philip is also passionate about green energy, and built one of the largest renewable energy Anaerobic Digesters in Penrith. The Greengill AD Plant produces energy from wheat, maize and other agricultural produce from the surrounding areas.
According to The Sunday Time, Philip Day is worth £1.05 billion. This is unusual because he made his money by saving high-street retail brands.