Retiring shop owner is in a ‘Different Class’

DIFFERENT CLASS!. . . David McIntyre, retiring from business as his Carlisle Road 'Different Class International Menswear' shop this week. DER3614MC024
DIFFERENT CLASS!. . . David McIntyre, retiring from business as his Carlisle Road 'Different Class International Menswear' shop this week. DER3614MC024

After more than four decades spent in the retail trade, local man David McIntyre is to retire.

David is the owner of Different Class Menswear, an independent retailer which has survived being bombed during the troubles and competition from larger chain stores.

But after 40 years at the helm, David is now planning to retire and hand the business over to employee Gerard Devine.

Retail has always been a part of David’s life and it is clear it is something he will find difficult to leave.

He was born in the Waterside, went to a commercial college and followed in his father’s footsteps with a job in Burtons.

He rose through the ranks and eventually became manager of a branch in Oban, Scotland.

Burtons was a hugely successful menswear retailer and at the time had a presence in every town and city. There were 500 shops across the United Kingdom.

David managed to make his mark in Burtons and was one of the first managers to employ female sales assistants.

“I worked in Scotland for four and a half years and they were the best few years of my life - mainly because I lived in a hotel for most of the time.

He then took a chance and opened his own shop, Different Class in 1973.

“It was initially based on Foyle Street, however a couple of years after opening it was bombed.It was devastating.

“It was bombed at a time when there were more bombed out buildings on Foyle Street than there were buildings in use.

“Different Class was out of business for around a year, because that was how long it took to sort all the paperwork out with the Northern Ireland Office.”

David dabbled in antiques for a short time during this year, mainly to ‘put bread on the table’.

He then re-opened Different Class on Carlisle Road, something that was to be a temporary move but proved so successful it has remained there ever since.

The shop grew and grew in popularity and they now have 6,000 customers on their database from across Northern Ireland, the result of 40 years hard work from David and his staff.

“A lot of people like the service they receive from an independent retailer and the high quality of stock that we offer.”

There is a personal touch when you buy with an independent retailers.

“As customers come through the doors of Different Class they are greeted by name, given advice about the clothes they are buying and measured to make sure they are buying the right size.

“When I first opened the city had more than 20 independent retailers.

“The vast majority of them have gone now and it really is a desperate situation.”

“Bigger retailers could learn lessons from independent ones - the main problem seems to be they can’t get their staff interested in providing customer service. Maybe it is because they have less invested in the success of the business.

“My theory is if you look after people they come back.

“The most important thing in the retail business is customer service.

“Never be greedy, the main purpose is not to sell something to a customer once but to get them coming back in again.

“We have customers from all over Northern Ireland and if they are treated well they are more inclined to call back when they are in Derry.”

The 70-year-old father of three believes that his work has helped him stay young and fit.

“Working here has kept me young and kept me fit.

“I’m 70 but I never sit down. The nice thing about this job is the people you meet.

“Coming to work is very much like a social life.

“You are glad to see people, new or old customers and it gives you a nice quality of life.

“I definitely will miss it.

“The characters that come in here, every day there is a bit of craic with them.

“The public are a real treasure and a treat to serve.”

“Retail is something that I really love.

“I have been in retail all of my life.

“I have two daughters who are architects and that was something I would have liked to do, but really sitting in an office all day wouldn’t be for me.

“I would rather meet people and serve them.”

David won’t be leaving Different Class just yet.

“ Before he goes he has almost half a million pounds worth of stock to sell and customers are being treated with a massive sale.

However, once he does go David has lots of plans for his retirement.

“I have three daughters and three grandchildren so I will be able to spend a lot more time with them once I stop working.

“I have a wee place in Dunfanaghy so I will spend some time there and I enjoy spending time in Portugal.”

David also hopes to indulge in some hobbies he hasn’t much time for in the last forty years, including bird watching and sailing.