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Close-Up Preview: Q&A with Melissa Potter, chief executive, Clarks

Drapers gives you an exclusive sneak peak of our Close-Up interview with Melissa Potter, managing director of footwear giant Clarks, ahead of the full interview in this weekend’s edition.

The economic climate in the UK has been fairly challenging over the past few years. What are you doing in the UK to address this and ensure you are providing the best possible service for your customers?

“We have done a huge staff training programme with all of our stores in the UK, which has delivered some great results both in terms of customer service feedback and actually in terms of employee satisfaction of working for Clarks. So that’s been really important.

We have also been rolling out our refit [programme] which we trialled in 2010, investing in refitting every UK store. From a product point of view we have been focusing on getting the pricing right for the market so it is first-price right-price every time. We have also been a bit more confident in our fashion credentials in the UK and we have been getting some great responses to our more fashion product in the stores.”

Tell me about your online business and how that is progressing?

“We launched online in 2009 in the UK, and now online is about 5% of our total UK sales. And it’s still growing very strongly for us.

We started off by regarding it [the website] as an extension of our service and have always had to integrate it with our stores. I think that has worked really well for us because we have such a great store footprint in the UK.

Customers can order online and go and collect from store if they want to, or they can order from the store; so it is an opportunity for range extension in smaller stores where they can’t hold all of the stock. They can also have shoes delivered to their homes and they can return them to store, so it is really flexible and it has always worked very well. Last year online grew by about 30% again, so it is a very important part of the business.”

Last year you made the decision to extend your online kids footwear business to include home delivery. Can you talk me through that decision?

“The take-up has been very good. You have to listen to your customers and allow them to access your service in whatever way they want. So our focus was to ensure that if we were going to extend our service offer online that we also could fulfil the values of the fit experience that would you expect to get in store.

So on the website you go through a very carefully managed process and you can send off and get your own Clarks fitting gauge, and if you still want reassurance you are welcome to go in store and let an expert check your fit. We are finding that consumers like that and it is working well for them.”

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