10 Questions: Paul Wilkinson 

March 7, 2018

Paul Wilkinson is global marketing and commercial director at J Barbour & Sons Ltd, one of the North East’s most iconic brands. He joined the company in May 2013 and is responsible for all global branding, e-commerce and commercial marketing strategy. As a member of the senior management team, Paul sets the overall brand strategy for both Barbour and Barbour International across all UK and international markets, which includes Europe, the US and Asia. Previously, Paul’s career has included senior positions with lifestyle brands O’Neill, Protest and Adidas

What was your first break in business? 

I graduated with a first-class honours degree in sport marketing and commercial management. As part of this I did a placement at NUFC which was great experience. This gave me the opportunity to go on and work for the global lifestyle brand, O’Neill, where I worked my way up to sales and marketing director.

What did you want to be growing up? 

I wanted to be a professional football player. I never quite made that goal! After that, I thought working in sports marketing or management would be a good option. I turned down a soccer scholarship in the US when I was 18 to enrol on a sports marketing and management course in the UK.

What attracted you to your current role? 

Three reasons: the brand, it is as emotive and aspirational as any in the world, the Barbour family, what Dame Margaret and Helen Barbour have achieved is immeasurable and finally, the North East; to help build a brand and business on a global level from my home town is pretty special.

What is the company’s mission? 


To build a long-term and sustainable business honouring our Barbour family values and rich British heritage. Also to provide excellent quality products and world-class customer service.


How do you get the best out of your team? 

I have always believed that the best leaders create the leaders of the future. I have a good role model in my MD, Steve Buck. While I set the strategy and objectives for my team and offer guidance and assistance while staying close to the detail, I believe that delegation is important, so I give my team the responsibility and empowerment to make decisions. I was always brought up to speak to and treat everyone the same and I always make time for everyone – my door is always open.

What has been your career highlight? 

Changing the customer’s perception from seeing Barbour as a brand that ‘just does outerwear’ to a brand that offers a lifestyle choice of clothes, accessories and footwear has been exciting and rewarding. In both 2016 and 2017, we won the Drapers Premium Lifestyle Brand of the Year, the first brand to win it twice in two consecutive years. This is something we are all very proud of as it is a measure of how far we have come as a lifestyle brand in the UK market, earning the recognition from our industry peers.

What has been your biggest challenge? 

In 1936, Duncan Barbour introduced a motorcycle suit (the Barbour International). This motorcycle heritage has always been part of our story but had never been clearly defined. Today, with our evolution as a lifestyle brand, the difference between Barbour (country inspired) and Barbour International (motorcycle inspired) has become more distinct. In 2013, following a piece of consumer research, we split off Barbour International as a stand-alone brand. Implementing this strategy has been exciting and also challenging as we develop the brand with its own associations and beliefs, separate product collections, social media channels a dedicated retail store in London and separate branded spaces within our wholesale partners. While we still have work to do, it’s really encouraging that our customers are beginning to understand the difference between the two brands.

Who or what inspires you? 

The All Blacks have a philosophy which states that you should be a good ancestor, plant trees you will never see and ‘leave the jersey in a better place.’ It is a philosophy that resonates with me. I am merely a guardian of these great brands and I want to play my part in leaving Barbour and Barbour International in a better place for the next generation. My inspiration and desire to achieve this comes from Dame Margaret, our chairman. She has built a global business with integrity and sound family values and I have the utmost respect for what she has achieved.

What are Barbour’s short and long-term goals? 

Our long-term vision is to be the best British lifestyle brand worldwide. All of our short-term goals are focused on this vision, which includes developing product categories such as shirts, knitwear, footwear and building our branded lifestyle business with key wholesale partners across our key global markets to drive the business forward.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance? 

It’s always a challenge. The nature of the role means I’m travelling a great deal. The most important thing to me is my family so I always make sure that I give them plenty of quality time, they deserve this from me. I enjoy sport and exercise is something I can do with my two children, which is good for all of us. Being in the North East definitely gives a better work/life balance – living by the coast, it’s easy to take long walks on the beach with the family.