In the Brexit age, leading business minds are set on what the UK has to offer the rest of the world.
The country’s natural resources cannot compete with the likes of China, the US or even Australia, and neither can its manufacturing capabilities.
However, one thing the UK can continue to rely on are innovative business ideas, and sense of style.
Renowned the world over, there are many retail brands which are synonymous with British style. But not one has managed to achieve this status quite as quickly as Cath Kidston.
Since being introduced to the world by its eponymous founder in 1993, the brand has taken the world by storm, amassing a loyal following.
Its colourful designs and modern vintage prints are largely responsible for this, but there is far more to Cath Kidston than handbags and Scotty the Dog.
Lynn Ritson, Cath Kidston’s global ecommerce director knows more than most about what goes on behind the scenes to grow and maintain the brand’s army of fans.
“If you love our brand, and we care about our customers, there has to be a benefit from that.”
“We have a very unusual culture here in terms of people and how they collaborate across departments,” Ritson told Retail Gazette.
“I think it’s something that we’re quite rightly protective of in terms of bringing people in. People genuinely care, they are genuinely passionate about what they do, and it shows.
“If you look at what the print teams do across the various categories, it really is like a work of art, it really is beautiful.
“Then you look at product teams and the developments in the products, you look across all departments and there is that sense of love. And it’s not superficial.”
What’s immediately clear is the brand’s cheerful image permeates into the company’s inner workings. The sense of affection felt for the brand among its followers starts its life among the staff.
Of course, this takes a lot of work to cultivate and maintain. Much of Cath Kidston’s time and resources are spent ensuring customers are kept at the heart of the company.
“Probably the biggest area that has developed is really around the customer,” Ritson said.
“They’re not customers that are just a number in a database, a tick off exercise. These are real people, it’s about how you value that.
“We feedback live to all our customer service teams. When we get feedback, we hand that over to our product designers, we have a constant survey on the website right now.
“We just feed this information back into the business, it is a two-way street. You have to keep a dialogue open with your customer you have to keep asking them.
“I think customers, whatever retailer they want to shop with, would regularly want to give them feedback. Successful retailers listen. That’s a real watch-out because the customer knows what they want.
“There is also the benefit of being a loyal customer. If you love our brand, and we care about our customers, there has to be a benefit from that.”
“When we launched Winnie the Pooh… we realised we had something quite special.”
In theory this may seem like a no-brainer, yet in practice it demands a complex infrastructure and capable hands at the helm to deal with the technical strains this brings.
Having held senior roles in retail ecommerce prior to her move to Cath Kidston in 2014, Ritson has overseen the evolution of ecommerce from a novelty to a vital part of any retailer.
“If you go back 10 or 15 years, no one really knew what the ecommerce team did,” she added.
“It’s almost treated as a separate channel, very much left on its own, everyone thought we were just a bit geeky.
“Whereas now a lot of companies, good companies, see it as another channel that the customer is choosing to shop with. I think that’s probably the real mind shift we’ve seen in retailers who are doing it really well.”
Last month, Cath Kidston announced the launch of the third collaboration with Disney, this time featuring a range of 101 Dalmatians designs. But the first collaboration between the two brands was what demonstrated the technical capabilities driving Cath Kidston’s success.
“When we launched Winnie the Pooh… we realised we had something quite special,” Ritson explained.
“You could see the demand and excitement building prior to the actual launch. You had people on social media posting that they had placed their order.
“We sold 70 mugs a minute online. That’s extraordinary. We had 17,000 people on the site at any one time when we launched it.
“We had 9000 customers waiting to get on to use the code to get access to the launch. We had a 12 percent conversion rate, you just don’t see stats like that.
“We put a lot of measures in place with our platform provider around what could be disabled that meant the site ran as it should.
“We have a completely on call team with us and had calls with our platform provider every 15 minutes to make sure the site was stable.”
More important than simply ensuring the ecommerce platforms are capable of dealing with the huge demand is ensuring the essence of the brand is maintained.
As a company so entrenched in its own style, maintaining consistency across its mutiple platforms and global estate is essential to its image.
“We’ve always had a really strong ecommerce business and what we’ve layered on top of it is really bringing to life the brand,” Ritson said.
“I think as a brand we’ve done really well in terms of consistency of execution in our stores, and what we’ve done is bring that to our online channel.
“So, when you go on to the website, it really comes alive. We’ve done that through user generated content, the great working the marketing director and her team does.
“Whether you’re coming to us via social, maybe customer service or in any of our stores, customers shop with Cath Kidston.”