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INVERNESS LOVES LOCAL: Uniqueness helps attract more people, says Inverness menswear shop owner

By Federica Stefani

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Donald Maclean, Primo Partner. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Donald Maclean, Primo Partner. Picture: James Mackenzie.

An institution for men’s fashion in Inverness, Primo menswear has been trading from its store on the corner of Queensgate and Academy Street for many years.

The family-run business first opened on 1928 under Pat J Mackenzie in Dingwall and now owned by his grandson Donald Maclean.

Trading under the name of Primo (meaning “first” in Italian) for the past 15 years, the shop is popular among locals and tourists alike and offers a curated selection of clothing staples from European brands.

Read more Inverness Loves Local stories:

We spoke to owner Donald Maclean.

Q: Tell us a bit about Primo and your business.

A: We’re completely different from what we used to be 15 years ago.

Our style was more on the classic gent, but we saw the writing on the wall for that coming to an end, so we completely reinvented ourselves. Now, we are much more contemporary and chasing the smart-casual side of the market. We have all European brands whereas in the past we had a more UK style.

Everybody associated Pat J Mackenzie’s name with quality, and we still focus on that but we decided to change the name to convey the idea of being more contemporary and trendy.

Q: What’s happening at Primo during the festive season?

A: We pretty much do the same as we always do – but we sell more of it! We tend to do very well at Christmas time, it’s very busy for us.

Our clients tend to be more from the local area over the festive season, whereas in summer we are more popular among tourists.

During the summertime, our best customers are Germans, although most of our products are from Germany! But we tend to choose quirkier items, and cherry pick from these brands, so what we have in stock might be something different than most of what they find in the stores back home.

Q: What is it about the Highlands and Islands that makes for ideal inspiration?

Donald Maclean, Primo Partner. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Donald Maclean, Primo Partner. Picture: James Mackenzie.

A: Inverness is quite an important place, it’s an incredible place for visitors. It never ceases to amaze me how popular it is with tourists. And it’s growing.

Q: Can you tell us something about Primo that might surprise people?

We’re not as expensive as people think! A lot of locals say they’ve known we’ve been here for many years, but they don’t come in because they have this preconceived idea that we’re very expensive, but we try as much as we can to pick quality which is also affordable.

Also, we don’t have an online shop. We want people to come in, see and feel the quality.

It works well for us, and because we pick new items all the time and we will only have a limited amount of each in the shop, if we went online it would be challenging to meet the demands. Some people might be surprised or disappointed but it means that when you buy something from us, it would be extremely difficult to find the same elsewhere. We want to keep what we sell unique.

Q: Who are your Inverness city centre stars?

I really like the Health Shop in Baron Taylor’s Street: they are excellent, they really know their stuff. I go there often, and they are a bit like ourselves – quite niche and focus on the quality of their products.

Then I really love Aeternum, the gift shop in the Victorian Market. Everything in there is very unique. That’s something that Inverness needs more of: people are looking for something a bit different.

Things like this and improving the offering in the city centre like they did with the new food hall at the Victorian Market really helps to drive people back into town again.

Q: What makes Inverness city centre a great place to visit, shop and work?

I think it has a particular vibe to it: it’s not too busy or too hectic, but at the same time it can be a lively place to be.

It’s difficult to pin down but it’s just a great part of the world to live in.

One thing we hear so much about from visitors to the area is the quality of our air! It’s something I think we take for granted sometimes but it’s quite amazing for some people coming from other parts of the world.

Q: Why is the Inverness city centre gift card the perfect present this festive season?

A: I think it’s really versatile, it’s a convenient way for people to spread the cost of Christmas too. It covers such a wide range of businesses in the city centre and I think it’s a really good idea. We welcome anyone who might want to use theirs in our store.


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