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Clarks: bridging the divide between online and offline

Clarks is synonymous with footwear in the UK. Most Brits reading this will have either worn school shoes bought from Clarks, or taken their children there for their school shoes. Or both. The brand has been around since 1825 – before Victoria took to the throne; this is a long-established, retail stalwart.

It doesn’t just sell school shoes, of course. Although a visit to a Clarks store at certain times of the year will make you wonder if you’ve stepped into the world’s worst creche, as grumpy children and exhausted parents wait for feet to be measured, shoes to be tried and eventually chosen.

Clarks can boast to have brought the world the desert boot, which it launched in 1950 and which is still highly sought after – and which has spawned thousands of facsimiles. Likewise, its Clarks Originals brand of footwear has cornered a particular market in the iconic footwear space, with shoes such as the Wallabee being favoured by musicians like Johnny Marr and Richard Ashcroft, as well as featuring, stylistically, on the feet of Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) in the Breaking Bad TV series.

While some retailers are struggling to balance the online and offline shopper experience, Clarks has invested in bridging that divide. In 2015 it started rolling out Moki Total Control software, running on tablet devices, across its 500+ network of stores. The point being to try to replicate the features and benefits of online shopping in-store, from instant stock checking, to faster checkout.

Online, shoppers can watch videos on product design and construction, detailing features like a new sole, which is said to offer better support. Items can be shared via Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, and there are customer reviews available across the site.

The site also features a wealth of non-product information that will no doubt resonate well with some shoppers. This iconic British retailer sets great store on its authenticity – the quality of the footwear it designs, manufactures and sells – and its longevity. No surprise that it offers links to information on its corporate history, its partnership with UNICEF and a statement regarding modern slavery, and details of its corporate responsibility beliefs.

For a long time, Clarks was a retail backwater, somewhere only older people and school children got their shoes. That’s no longer the case, as Clarks is clearly committed to providing a wide range of products that reflect its beliefs, beliefs it is very open about, and is working to combine that with a great customer experience whether in-store or online.

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