Hitting the Right Notes: The Journey of Jo Jenkins and White Stuff

Last Updated: June 7, 2024By

Hitting the Right Notes: The Journey of Jo Jenkins and White Stuff



“I’m just getting started,” says Jo Jenkins, the 55-year-old dynamo behind the casual clothing brand White Stuff. This brand, which kicked off with two ski buddies selling T-shirts in the Alps, has grown into a favorite for floral tunics, utility jackets, and other everyday must-haves for parents.

A New Beginning for White Stuff

Jo Jenkins, a seasoned pro in retail, joined White Stuff from Marks & Spencer in 2017. Her mission? To get White Stuff back on track. Known for its colorful prints and comfy fits, White Stuff had been struggling with losses, thanks to the boom in online shopping and some style missteps.


Since stepping in, Jenkins has navigated the brand through some pretty rough seas. While other brands like Joules, FatFace, and Cath Kidston stumbled during the pandemic, White Stuff came out strong, turning a profit again by 2022. They’ve even become popular with shoppers at Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, and Next, as these big retailers now sell White Stuff’s clothes online.

The Expansion

White Stuff isn’t just an online success. They’ve got 114 stores and 46 concessions in the UK, plus 28 more in Germany, and a whopping 575 wholesale stockists around the globe. There are whispers that founders George Treves and Sean Thomas might sell the brand as it continues to grow.

With plans to open up to 30 new standalone stores over the next five years and double the number of M&S outlets selling their products to 20, Jenkins has big ambitions. She also wants to expand their accessories, footwear, and men’s ranges.


Full Circle

Coming back to M&S is like coming home for Jenkins. She started there as a “Saturday girl” and then became a management trainee straight out of school. After years at Next, she returned to M&S as the beauty and clothing director.

Reaching the Core Customer

Teaming up with bigger names has helped White Stuff connect with its main customers—those in their fifties. This age group is often overlooked by retailers, even though they’re one of the few still spending on fashion these days.

Jenkins notes that people in their fifties are confident in their style choices and know what they want. “Our unique, independent take on style appeals to those looking for something different, something that doesn’t follow the crowd,” she says.


The Stylish Mid-Lifer

As a stylish mid-lifer herself, Jenkins is the perfect example of the customer she serves. “What’s 50 today? It’s nothing! I feel like I’m just getting started, ready for the next chapter.”

Challenges and Triumphs

The UK fashion scene has faced tough times, with unpredictable weather affecting sales. But White Stuff has kept growing, thanks to improved styles and reliable basics like chinos and cardigans, which aren’t as dependent on the seasons.

Jenkins admits, “It’s a challenging market, and we have to work hard for every sale.” The brand employs over 1,200 people and saw a 13% increase in sales to £151m in the year to April 2023. Although profits dipped last year due to rising costs, they’re expecting growth in full-price sales and profit this year, with April sales up 12% from the previous year.

From Humble Beginnings

White Stuff has come a long way since 1985 when Treves and Thomas first sold their T-shirts out of a suitcase in fancy ski resorts. They opened their first store in Clapham, south London, in 1991 and launched a catalogue. They kept designing products themselves until the early 2000s, when they brought in Sally Bailey from Miss Selfridge to help the brand appeal to a more urban audience and shift into womenswear.

Sticking to Standards

Jenkins believes White Stuff’s success lies in its commitment to quality and detail. “We’ve never lost sight of the detail and quality, and I think that’s kept us ahead,” she says.

The Present and Future

Sales of their colorful dresses are up by a quarter, and their quirky knitwear, like hot pink bobble jumpers, is also doing well. Jenkins acknowledges the tough market but says, “Our product has just hit it right. We’re having a good time.”

The Personal Side

Jenkins, 55, is married to Karl and has three kids: George, 21, Frannie, 19, and Lizzie, 15. She studied at St David’s High School in Clwyd and joined the M&S management training program after her A-levels. Her last holiday was a family skiing trip to Cervinia, Italy, with “amazing weather and tons of snow!”

She has no major regrets, except wishing she became a CEO sooner. Her favorite phrases include, “If anyone can, you can,” and “I’ve got restless discontent.” To relax, she loves shopping and watching TV shows like “The Bear” or a good crime drama. The best advice she’s received? “Surround yourself with inspiring and ambitious people. Assembling a talented team quickly to tackle the challenge ahead is crucial.”

And there you have it, the story of Jo Jenkins and White Stuff, a brand that’s all about staying true to its roots while embracing the future.

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