Thursday 25 April 2013

Why the world loves Clarks and its shoes as it nears its 200th anniversary

                                                                                                        pic: Brian Moore
Obviously they make a good shoe, but I have always attributed Clarks’ success to their unique approach to two key factors – their design philosophy and trade management model.

How they design shoes
Essentially, Clarks design shoes from the inside out in terms of starting with a good fit, with appearance coming later. This is in contrast with more stylish continental shoes that start with appearance and work from the outside in, sometimes with unfortunate results in terms of comfort.

As their children - and their shoe requirements - transition to early teens, anyone with teenage daughters- or even grand-daughters - will appreciate the difficulty in persuading them to accept anything even remotely connected with ‘Clarks sandals’

Thus Clarks ‘loses’ the satisfied user for the vital middle years..

However, with age, the increasing need for comfort means that they pick up that same child in her mid-forties, thus realising the remaining life-time value of their users…

Filling the gap between childhood and middle-age has always represented a marketing challenge for Clarks (more on this ‘gap-filling’ and how this family firm has beaten the ‘3-generation’ rule, here)

How they manage the trade
From a retailing point of view, Clarks again have a unique approach. When the new season’s shoe-models have been approved, sufficient quantities are made to facilitate a series of viewings at selected hotels around the country. Shoe retailers are then invited to their nearest venue, are shown the range and are invited to commit on their requirements before leaving the premises… From experience the retailers know there are limited opportunities to go backwards or forwards on order quantities as the season develops.

When all the orders have been received, Clarks buy the leather and manufacture the shoes…

Meanwhile, where have the rest of us all missed a trade-trick, I ask myself….?

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