In 1904, Charles Hughes established a small retail business in Westport, Ireland, that designed, manufactured, and distributed high-quality workwear throughout the country. More than a century later, the company is still in the same family's hands, run by third-generation brothers Cathal (Chairman), Harry (Managing Director), and Owen (Managing Director, Charles Hughes Ltd) Hughes. The Portwest name is an anagram of the town name. Distributing protective clothing, safety footwear, specialist accessories, and personal protective equipment globally from its five bases in Ireland, Poland, Dubai, the UK, and the US, Portwest serves retailers and distributors in more than 84 countries and sells to 3,000 safety distributors. It has manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh and China.
Last year marked the 110th anniversary of the business and was an opportune moment to reflect on the past successes while also talking about future visions. The CEO Magazine spoke to Cathal and Harry about their long tenures with Portwest and what it means to be an integral part of a family company with so much history.
Cathal, a trained accountant, says he remembers back to the mid 1970s when Portwest was an extremely small operation. "It was a family business and so from the day we arrived we were involved in running it," Cathal recalls. "Harry has a degree in clothing technology so our expertise complemented each other. Ever since, we have worked together like a hand in a glove."