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Trader Spotlight: Dobsons

Dobsons first opened in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn. Members of the Dobson family always said that Friday 13th was the family’s lucky day. “It wasn’t until I actually looked back at a calendar” to see when the store opened that Ian realised it must be true. December 2018 will mark 100 years of rich history for school uniform and fashion retailer Dobsons.

Ian Dobson is a third generation Dobson in the business and has now passed it onto his two sons. However, he still remains an important part of the business, joking that he does “the jobs that they don’t like.” Ian spends most days at the head office in Dandenong and still frequents the Glenferrie store at least twice a week.

About eight years ago Ian went back to school where he studied Fashion Design at RMIT and “absolutely loved it.” His first tertiary education, over 30 years ago, was at Monash University studying Economics after which he took over Dobsons. His recent studies allowed him to understand and develop a different aspect of the business, design and fabrics.

Now with three major shops and around 25 on-campus stores, Dobsons retail has changed and grown over the past century. The shop originally opened as a men’s boutique in 1918, located at Glenferrie Lane. After a short relocation to 648 Glenferrie Road, they then moved to 654 Glenferrie Road, and in 1976 moved to their current location at 667 Glenferrie Road.

The family has always said that Xavier College was the first school that Dobsons supplied uniforms to, however in September 1922 Dr Littlejohn, the then Principal of Scotch College, wrote authorising Dobsons as a supplier. Currently sales comprise of approximately 60% school uniform and 40% fashion. The Glenferrie store tends to be the exception with 60% fashion and 40% school uniform sales.

Living in Camberwell for the majority of his life and working at the Dobsons Glenferrie store, Ian has watched Glenferrie Hawthorn evolve. In the early days Ian remembers seeing Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn as a second cousin to Burke Road, Camberwell but now he sees the two as competitors.

Glenferrie has become “far more vibrant over the years,” but Ian sees the need for more fashion retailers instead of food, though with his wife he does enjoy dining at the range of restaurants. Their favourites include Vaporetto, Fonda, Rococo, Osteria 20 and The Glenferrie Hotel.

As Dobsons celebrates its 100th year there is much for Ian and his family to look back on and be thankful for. A celebratory party will be held for their staff, while Ian and the team are still planning a way to thank their loyal customers.

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