Chris Tiso: Edinburgh’s a staging post for wild times

It's next stop Aviemore as Chris Tiso prepares to open his firm's 15th store. Picture: Trevor Martin
It's next stop Aviemore as Chris Tiso prepares to open his firm's 15th store. Picture: Trevor Martin
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North, south, east or west, travel in any direction from Scotland’s capital and within a few miles there are hills, rivers, beaches, woodland and crags to explore. A thriving hub for commerce and tourism, with strong transport links (including an improving cycle network), in my opinion Edinburgh is also increasingly recognised as a fantastic staging post to explore the great outdoors.

For over 25 years I’ve been at the helm of our proud family business. From humble beginnings in 1962 in Edinburgh, Tiso’s reputation for providing high quality apparel and equipment, combined with sound advice and a shared passion for the outdoors has seen Tiso and our sub-brands of Alpine Bikes and Blues The Ski Shop establish a loyal customer footprint.

Today, we operate from Edinburgh (Rose Street, Commercial Street, Hamilton Place and Ratho) and Glentress (Borders) to Glasgow, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Inverness. Very soon, that footprint will extend further when we open Tiso Aviemore Outdoor Experience as our 15th store.

Mountain-biker, back-country skier, climber, hill-walker or kayaker, it will be no surprise to Capital shoppers that the outdoor retail sector is highly competitive. Often time poor and highly aware of their equipment needs, our customers are also increasingly digital savvy and quite rightly, expect the best. We may now be approaching a £30m-plus annual turnover, but in the fast-paced, ever changing environment of outdoor retail, you can never take your eye off the ball.

Whether it’s considering new season ranges at our office in Leith (above Tiso Edinburgh Outdoor Experience) or travelling the country to meet suppliers, I expect all 300-plus staff to be highly attentive to our customers’ needs.

In my opinion, innovation and establishing sound strategic partnerships are also factors that keep us ahead of the competition.

Just days ago, I was pleased to announce that Tiso, as part of the larger JD Outdoor group, has now entered an exclusive three-year partnership to be a Recommended Retailer of Expedition Kit for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE).

In the Year of Young People, it’s fitting to share our active interest in the great outdoors with an award scheme that from volunteering to physical activities aims to give young people the passport to a brighter future.

Indeed, Tiso has supported expeditions for over 40 years. This includes Edinburgh resident Mollie Hughes’ world record-breaking 2017 Everest expedition, her current all-female Tiso Hike Jordan desert expedition and our support of the youth charity, The Polar Academy. Hopefully, these remarkable explorers continue to inspire our young and older customers alike to plan their own adventures.

As I write, snow patches glisten on the Pentland Hills. Downstairs, customers try bikes and hiking boots. Over 55 years since my parents first opened the Tiso door on Rodney Street, it’s all a reminder that however competitive the retail sector, Edinburgh has a healthy appetite for outdoor adventure.

Chris Tiso is CEO of Tiso Group