HOT 100 2014, Karl Irwin, David M Robinson

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The economy in the past 12 months has thrown out some of the toughest challenges of Karl Irwin’s career, but when the chips were down he knuckled down and delivered an outstanding performance.

“Last year a lot of analysts believed that we were through the worst of the recession, but it has been, and remains, incredibly tough,” says Karl, who is charged with watch brand liaison and buying for the group’s six stores.

Karl credits his team, particularly the staff at the best-performing Liverpool showroom, with a heroic effort to deliver growth in tough times, but also says that a little bit of relationship management with the watch brands David M Robinson sells has also helped empower the retail group.

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“We had realised that the pendulum had swung a little too far in favour of the watch brands and we needed to regain more control for ourselves, which we have done,” he says. “We still have a fantastic stable of partners from the watch world, in brands such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, Cartier, IWC, Panerai and Omega, amongst many others, but the relationships are stronger and better in every sense of the word. A partnership must be a partnership in every sense of the word if it is to have any real meaning.”

Partnerships are important to Karl outside of work too, and as a devoted father it has given him enormous pride to watch his daughter achieve her dreams this year by securing a place at college. He says: “She knew what she wanted and she did everything in her power to achieve her dream and ambition. I have seen a real fire in her eyes, which I absolutely love to see.” It would seem that in this case the apple does not fall far from the tree.

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