Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Degree: Retail Fashion Arts
Year of graduation: 1982
To say that Barrington’s is an Oakville institution is not an overstatement. The downtown store has been an outerwear retailer for an incredible 63 years. Brenda Barrington has been keeping the landmark operation on top of the industry for 22 of those years, along with husband Paul whose family has been in the outerwear business for six generations.
Staying relevant in retail over the past two decades has meant adapting to meet the changing needs of Barrington’s nation-wide customer base, says Brenda. Most notably, the company has focused on developing the non-fur side of the business, including cloth coats, leather and shearlings. Brenda, a 1982 Retail Fashion Arts graduate, travels the world’s fashion markets to bring the most interesting outerwear to the Oakville store. Closer to home, the company continues to grow its private label made-in-Canada cloth collection.
However, fur still represents a good portion of their business, particularly fur restyling which has “grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years,” says Brenda. “There are a lot of coats in closets that people don’t know what to do with.”
Barrington’s gives new life to older furs that hold sentimental value to customers by restyling the garments and even creating special family keepsakes, such as teddy bears that can be passed down through generations.
Brenda has seen the retail landscape change dramatically over the past two decades. “I never thought anyone would buy something as tactile as our product from a website but they do, so we continue to reach out to our customers in new ways.”
Not that the traditional store front is going by the wayside, she adds. “The experience of shopping and browsing still has value, but today’s consumers are much more savvy. They have done their homework before they enter the store.”
However, even long-standing customers want to see new products, a fact that small independent merchants often lose sight of, believes Brenda. “If you want to be around for the next generation you have to be open to new opportunities and find new ways to create value for your customers. It’s a balance between respecting the past and looking to the future.”
The importance of tradition is something Brenda may have learned from her mother, Barbara Ford, a long-time administrator in Sheridan’s Athletics Department and a member of the Athletic Hall of Fame.