The Ken Varey Story
Mr. Kevin Horkin, the MD of Ken Varey Town and Country bought the business off Ken Varey himself in 1997. The business at the time was titled Ken Varey Outdoor World and sold fishing products as it's speciality. The company name was recently changed to Ken Varey Town and Country wear to in keep with the products that the stores now sell. Ken Varey Town and Country Wear is part of The Horkin Group. The Horkin Group also have under it's wings, 'Lady' (Ladieswear Clothing based in Accrington and Clitheroe), Spex Opticians (Eye Care and Spectacle makers, branches based in Clitheroe, Accrington and Rawtenstall), Hello Clitheroe magazine (Local high quality magazine bursting with latest news and advertising across the Ribble Valley), The Footwear Gallery (Clitheroe, Selling ranges of high quality branded ladies and gents shoes), Labels 4 Less clothing outlets (Pop up shops which visit different towns and different locations from time to time), and Montague Slaidburn Furniture (Antiques in Clitheroe) The Horkin Group employs over 50 members of staff, and the Head Office is based in Clitheroe.
When asked by Bill Roach of Coronation Street how he would describe himself, Kevin thought for a moment and said "Resourceful."
He went on to say "The problem is that I don't fit into any pigeon hole. I've been an actor, a reporter, a newspaper columnist. I've created and hosted TV shows, worked as an advisor on numerous films, created a national charity and published two books. I've used my interest in animals to source any number of strange creatures for TV and the film industry. Resourceful is the only word I can think of to describe myself."
Kevin was born in Rossendale, Lancashire on 5th Feb 1962
He started his business career in 1979 when he was 17 years old. He opened his first market stall selling costume jewellery on Accrington Market for the early part of his business career and held down 3 jobs - standing the local markets by day, selling alarm systems door-to-door early evenings, then waiting on behind the bar of his local night club at night.
Kevin’s first big business breakthrough came in December 1983 when he opened his ‘Eye Shop’ The ready made reading spectacles shop. It opened in Accrington amid a blaze of national publicity. During this time it was illegal to sell spectacles by anyone other than a qualified Ophthalmic Optician. He soon realised that this was monopolistic trading at its very best and began to challenge the law on the sale of ready made reading glasses in the U.K.
It wasn’t long before the opticians ruling body The General Optical Council took out simultaneous private prosecutions in an attempt to stop his ‘hugely popular’ trade in the sale of ready made reading spectacles.
Kevin was hailed instantly as the ‘Pioneer of Cut Price Reading Glasses’ with prices starting at just £3.50 per pair. It wasn’t long before his business antics and court cases became the subject of many National Newspaper Headlines. Indeed he was one of TV A.M’s first television guests when his plight to bring lower prices to the market place was highlighted to the nation by a very young presenter, Anne Diamond.
The debate and his court cases raged on whilst young Kevin quickly established a North West chain of twelve spectacles shops, all doing a roaring trade.
He successfully fought the actions by the G.O.C. UNTIL Margaret Thatcher’s’ Government saw the merit in Kevin’s personal plight and in early 1987 decided to change the law to enable non qualified opticians the right to sell spectacles without the need of a prescription. This had a massive impact on the spectacle buying public and it wasn’t long before the flood gates opened to reveal hitherto unheard of Optical Competition. Many national optical brands were established around this time. Kevin then re-branded his business from The Eye Shop to Spex Opticians, employing qualified Opticians.
A still very young Kevin had notched up a considerable debt brought about by his vigorous defending of his 3 optical court cases brought originally by the G.O.C. and it took a few years for Kevin to repay this, but repay he did.
In 1987 however a new career was dawning. Kevin had already supplied spectacles to some of the actors of Granada Televisions Manchester Studios. Realising that Kevin was an animal lover, Granada asked him if he could supply some animals for the nations best loved soap ‘Coronation Street’. Kevin dutifully agreed and there began an association with the programme that lasted some 18 years, supplying everything from the cat on the roof to Jacks Pigeons, Hilda’s cat and even Mavis’s Budgie.
During this time Kevin was in great demand for his ‘Animal Services’ The name of his Star Pet Agency - Pet Role. The agency’s list of credits (programmes that they had worked on) was spectacularly impressive. Pet Role worked on some of the nations top T.V Programmes.
During this time Granada T.V. were piloting a new format for I.T.V. called ‘This Morning’ hosted by a little known husband and wife team called Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan. Kevin had started supplying animals for them from the early start however he did not get his ‘on screen’ calling until the year after when he was called upon to judge the ‘This Morning’ Pet of the Year Competition. Many, many T.V appearances followed and even an attempt to poach him by the BBC’S Good Morning with Anne and Nick and Channel 4’s Big Breakfast with Chris Evens. However, Kevin stayed loyal to the programme and continued for a further 8 years just before the programmes famous move to London.
During Kevin’s early T.V. career many celebrities had called upon his skills and services to supply them their own individual pets, this resulted in Kevin’s two books which were ‘Pets and personalities on Coronation Street’ and ‘Star Dogs’.
Kevin had continued to meet many celebrities who he had either interviewed for one of his books or who he had interviewed for infrequent articles for the T.V Times or his regular column in the Sunday People newspaper.
Since then Kevin has been a regular columnist for national magazines such as ‘Mad about Dogs’, Sainsbury’s Magazine and ‘On the Air’ to mention just a few.
The Crufts Dog Show has always been a great love of Kevin’s from having his first show ticket in 1993 to present day Kevin can often be seen during the Annual Crufts Week (in March) welcoming celebrities to the show on behalf of various UK charities and The Kennel Club.
Kevin has been a director and major shareholder since 1999 in the canine and feline publishing group ‘Our Dogs’ and ‘Our Cats’ The weekly national newspapers set up in 1897 by Theo Marples.
A lot of Kevin’s charitable work stemmed from his long association with Our Dogs, having regularly raised funds for The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, Manchester Dogs, Pets as Therapy and Lords House Farm, of which he is a Trustee.
Kevin has for many years had a great interest in Spiritualism, having attending his first Spiritualist Church by accident as a young boy in 1976, ever since then he has dipped in and out of the faith.
Kevin recently said, that he believes the one great connector in the life he has led so far has been that of animals, dogs in particular. They have brought him in to extraordinary situations and created incredibly interesting and rewarding associations with people.