Clarks’ solid reputation as a purveyor of sensible shoes is well founded, but plans are in place to add fashion interiors to the mix.
It’s coming up to five months since Mike Shearwood became chief executive of Clarks and the changes he is making are becoming visible, both to the way in which the retailer and brand operates and to the large network of branches.
The shoe retailer has long been a stalwart of ‘sensible’ shoes and has a very large share of the school footwear market, and many of its UK branches still feel a little pragmatic (aka dull) in terms of store design.
Shearwood says: “We are planning a full review and modernisation of the company’s property portfolio.
”This will ensure that all stores are the right size, located in the right locations to enable us to provide the right offering that matches our status as a desired retailer on the high street.”
A chain-wide makeover of the estate is on the cards meaning Clarks could be on the road to becoming a fashion, and even fashionable, retailer.
Shearwood cites “simplified” stores that direct focus on to the product, which design wise translates to “a more contemporary shopping environment, with oak timber flooring, leather seating and concrete pillars to contrast between natural and man-made materials”.
Test new-look stores in Manchester and Glasgow will be trading by the summer. The concept will be similar to the modular showroom design of London’s Russell Square branch.
“We think our consumers will be amazed at the transformation,” adds Shearwood.
For a sense of the shift in focus that is under way, take a look at the Regent Street flagship.
Six holograms of rotating shoes that dissolve and reassemble to show the manufacturing process can be seen in the frontage window.
It feels a world away from the retailer that built a solid reputation on measuring customers’ feet for the right fit.
Of course, knowledge and customer care remain a component of Clarks stores, but the retailer is looking for a new standing within the industry through its updated store environments.
On the digital front, Clarks went live last year with a new e-commerce platform supporting its European websites outside the UK.
The US and the UK are set to follow suit this year and plans are in place to beef up Clarks’ social media presence.
“Our brand has enormous potential with an unrivalled heritage. We know there is more potential revenue through market share acquisition to be had in all markets across our business.”
Mike Shearwood, Clarks chief executive
Shearwood says: “Our brand has enormous potential with an unrivalled heritage. We know there is more potential revenue through market share acquisition to be had in all markets across our business.”
For a retailer with more than 22,000 distribution points in 100 countries and noting that half of Clarks’ business is conducted through wholesale points of sale, including international franchises, there is much work to be done to bring the whole enterprise into line and make its public face the same wherever a shopper happens to be.
Clarks’ headquarters is based in Street, Somerset, possibly something of a disadvantage when it comes to being part of fashion’s vanguard.
Clarks has some way to go before it will be a natural destination for modish types.
That said, if things go according to Shearwood’s plan, its offering should turn a few more well-coiffed heads, the collaboration with Liam Gallagher-designed desert boots notwithstanding.
Headquarters: Street, Somerset
Chief executive: Mike Shearwood
Current store ambience: Sensible
Redesign plans: Contemporary environments