The adventure retailer believes that knowing your customers is the secret to keeping off the winter chill.

Chris Tiso is no stranger to operating under adverse conditions. The chief executive of the outdoor retailer Tiso comes from a family of mountaineers, and spent a year as the skipper on yacht - unlikely, if appropriate preparation for the task he now faces, steering a large business through the economic storm.

"There is no quick fix in terms of the economic situation," he says. "Consumer confidence has subsided and general spending has gone down. No one is immune to that, and retail feels it acutely, often at the very beginning and to the very end."

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Tragedy pushed Mr Tiso to the helm of the Edinburgh-based business two decades ago, after his father Graham was killed in a boating accident. Having left university early to join the family firm, the 21-year-old had started training as a junior manager, then found himself running the company. "My start in business was unconventional, to say the least," he admits.

Tiso has since grown to become a household name, with over 500 staff and outlets in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland, providing kit for activities from hiking to biking, skiing and kayaking.

Mr Tiso only spends a couple of days a week in his office, preferring to take a hands-on approach and get involved in the practical aspects of the business – an approach that he believes is an important factor in Tiso’s success.

"You can’t run a retail business with your legs under the desk in an office," he says. "I very much believe in getting down and dirty, rolling my sleeves up, speaking to my staff and being out on the shop floor as much as possible."

In a set-up that remains proudly family-owned and run, with his mother Maude both a shareholder and an ongoing source of support, Mr Tiso says his responsibility to his employees and their families is a strong motivator. "It makes me hugely proud to be able to create so many jobs and so many opportunities for so many people in Scotland," he says, "but at the same time what comes with that is a huge burden of responsibility.

"You are very much aware that so many people rely on you for their livelihood, for their mortgage payments, to put food on the table, and for their children’s needs, and that perhaps is the greatest sense of responsibility of all. There is no greater driver to ensure that I maximise the performance of the business."

While Tiso’s expansion to key outdoor destinations such as the Lake District demonstrates the company’s ambition, its core remains as determinedly Scottish as its owners.

"Graham Tiso Ltd was started by my mother and father, here in Edinburgh in 1962, and our head office, our warehouse and our distribution function remain here in Leith. This is our market, and this is our home. It is where the mountains are and where the most-wild places are. It is both the playground that we know and understand and it’s the market that we know and understand, we believe, better than any of our competitors."

Despite a teeth-gritted realism about the economic challenges, Chris Tiso believes that Tiso remains in a position of strength, because it opens doors that allow customers to fulfil a lifestyle choice: "The products we sell allow people to follow their dreams," he says.

"I don’t believe they are going to just stop doing whatever it is that they enjoy doing, whether it’s mountain biking, heading to the hills or skiing at weekends. I think that our market positioning remains as relevant today as ever, and our proposition is perhaps stronger than ever."