Falkirk lingerie store Miss Forsyth celebrates 140 years in business
Few town centre businesses can say they’ve survived two world wars and a pandemic.
Now in its 140th year, Falkirk lingerie firm Miss Forsyth is rightfully proud to have withstood such challenges and come through the other side.
Remarkably, the shop remains based in the same Lint Riggs premises where it began in 1881 and has seen countless stores come and go in the town over the decades.
Current owner Sarah Williamson is one of just five women to have held responsibility for managing the business, having taken over from her mum, Jennifer Moodie.
Miss Forsyth was originally set up by two sisters of the same name, neither of whom married.
An employee, known as Mrs Kingston, then took over following the siblings’ retirement and ran the shop until she turned 80 before Mrs Moodie bought the business in 1984.
Falkirk woman Sarah is unsure as to the exact 140th anniversary date.
What matters most to the businesswoman, however, is the premises has reopened following the latest lockdown, meaning she and her staff can continue to create more Miss Forsyth history.
Specialising in ladies’ underwear, the shop also sells swimwear and nightwear.
A “boom” in business in the 1980s resulted in Miss Forsyth opening a second store in Perth the following decade.
Just now, Sarah and her team don’t have time to plan anniversary celebrations.
Rather, their focus is on the future and their customers.
Sarah, who began working at the store aged 14 as a Saturday girl, said: “With everything that’s going on, trying to do anything is such a thought.
“The big thing this year is we’ve survived this pandemic. The shop’s also survived two world wars – there aren’t many shops that can say that these days.
“We've been in and out tidying up and taking new orders.
“The customers have been immensely important. That’s what’s kept me going, especially over the last year. It’s been so tempting to call it a day.
“I’d like to thank our customers, who are generations’ worth. Girls come in with their gran and mum to get their first bra. It's like an institution.”
Miss Forsyth has witnessed a multitude of changes over the years and stocked various styles of undergarment.
The one constant, as far as Sarah is concerned, has been the customer service skills of its staff and the relationships they’ve built with shoppers.
She continued: “We’ve got many customers who need help with fitting or ladies who have had surgery and feel self-conscious, so my staff are picked to be compassionate and understanding of ladies’ issues.
“The members of staff are fundamental to the business. Without their good bra-fitting skills and friendliness, we would have no business.
“The shop’s had to change with the fashions. In the 1920s it was all about corsets, whereas ladies’ busts have changed and underwear has evolved over that time.
“They had to get through the 1970s, the ‘burn the bra’ time, so I think that was quite challenging for them. Over the 1980s, underwear really took a boom again.
“I was always interested in getting involved. I’ve got a daughter, Rachel, who’s done an odd shift.
“I’ve taught her about bra fittings and the basics are there for her to come in. I’d like to think she’ll get involved.”