Henry Buck sailed to Australia from England in the early 1880’s to start a new life in the colonies, leaving behind his fiancée Laura. He took a job as a ‘jackaroo’, a boundary rider, in country Victoria, a tough uncompromising way to forge a living and this soon took its toll on the young Yorkshireman’s health.
Laura followed Henry to Australia, not having heard much from him and took matters in hand. She married him, brought him back to Melbourne, then at the height of its ‘boom and bust’ property explosion and together they opened a small tailoring shop, making shirts and blouses for affluent Melburnians.
By the turn of the century Henry had built a big factory on the outskirts of Melbourne to manufacture shirts, pyjamas and ties, and had leased a large warehouse in the city.
King George V appointed Henry Buck an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1920 for services to the community and business. As well as managing a business involved in retail, manufacturing and wholesaling, HB had become famous for administering to thousands of returned troops, ferrying them around and providing food and shelter throughout the 1914-1918 war. In 1919, Fred Dennett, a touring concert pianist and entertainer, married Henry’s only daughter, Elsie, much to her parents disapproval. Fred eloped with his young bride to India, the next port of call for this dashing young ‘pop star’ and his entourage.
Henry’s famous telegram, ‘All is forgiven. Come home. Love Dad.’ changed the course of the firm’s future and insured its succession. Fred joined Henry Bucks, produced a daughter, Suzanne, and a son Peter who was later shot down over France in 1944 at the age of 21. When HB died on a visit to England in 1933, FWD as he was affectionately called became Governing Director.
Henry Buck’s granddaughter, Suzanne, married James Cecil from England. Their sons, Timothy and Jonathan, are now fully involved in the business. The 5th generation, Jonathan’s second son and Henry’s great great grandson, Timothy, has also joined the business and is responsible for buying the casual wear and for general operations around the stores. Timothy’s elder brother James followed his great grandfather’s footsteps and become a musician. Romy, Jonathan’s young daughter is yet to establish a career and is still at school.
Tim Cecil senior manages the business. Jon designs and fits out the stores and catalogues and advises on corporate image. Their mother Suzanne sits on the board and administers good motherly advice. Between them they own 100% of the shares. There are now 6 stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, a thriving mail-order business through their catalogues and website online shopping, occasional trunk shows that travel to most Australian cities presenting the seasonal collections to the country and interstate clientele, an outlet store in Collingwood, Victoria, where their head office, warehouse, mail order and buying office are also located.
Australia is a big country and Henry Bucks mail to 75,000 clients whose names are all collected at point-of-sale. The three-times-a-year major award-winning catalogues and ‘Henry’ magazines represent the pivotal focus of their marketing and advertising. Henry Bucks also sponsors or are patrons of the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts, The Victorian Racing Club, the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, Beyond Blue and Victorian Opera.
Important brands in the stores continue to be Henry Bucks and Bucks Casuals made in Australia, New Zealand and Italy. In addition Henry Bucks buys Church’s, Hilditch & Key, Atkinsons, Derek Rose, Baracuta, Edward Green, Drakes, Pringle, Smedley and Hackett from Great Britain; Canali, Ermenegildo Zegna, Paul & Shark, Stefano Ricci, Tino Cosma, Rossetti, Boglioli, Borsalino, Belstaff and Brunello Cucinelli from Italy; Ascot, Van Laack, Seidensticker and Brax from Germany; Eton from Sweden and Breuer from France. The European Gant sportswear collection dominates the rapid growth in casual sportswear.
Henry Bucks has strengthened its position in the market place over the past 20 years or so through expansion and consolidation, entrepreneurial initiatives and focusing on its 35-65 age group, affluent, corporate, smartly dressed client. And still remains one of the last wholly owned and managed family companies left to fly the flag of private enterprise