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Designing the future

Find out more about the inspiration behind our new collection as Start-Rite’s Head of Design Claire Russell chats to LovedByParents editor Tina Summers.


What inspired you when designing the new range?

At the start of the season, our Design team puts together a Seasonal Stories document, which is designed to communicate clear stories to help merchandise the range from an early stage – so that the final range gels together so to speak. The inspiration for these stories is comprised of extensive research in to fashion trends (both adults and kids), and new technologies (not just confined to footwear technologies but anything and everything new that can be translated into footwear). We also look at popular culture – what’s trending for kids now in terms of films, toys, social media etc. The underlying inspiration is always rooted in understanding how children live and move today, and what new and exciting resources are available to make that happen.

What do you believe every child’s shoe should have?

Every child’s shoe should have – in varying degrees, depending on use – protection and support, whilst allowing the child freedom to move and grow. And more and more these days, it’s about helping the child express themselves. We not only fit the foot, but we fit the child. We want to enable the child to #KeepExploring and, at the same time, give their parents peace of mind.

Which materials make a good shoe?

Materials have to be of quality and usage specific. For instance, a shoe for a birthday party might have a shiny patent with child-friendly appliqué detailing and only be worn on special occasions, because it’s a little bit more delicate, whilst a shoe to play outdoors in would be more robust and have quality materials geared toward outdoor play – like an abrasive material to protect the toe and prevent or reduce scuffing, or extra padding around the ankle to provide comfort and support as the feet are pushed to their limits. The more we look at how the child moves and lives, we can tailor the materials to suit their usage. We also look at the developmental stages of the child’s growth too – very young feet need soft leathers that gently protect and never hinder the growing foot, whilst a much older child would need more robust leathers that target different areas of the feet, engineered to give the right amount of comfort and flexibility, but with targeted support.


Which is your favourite shoe from the new range?

Oh, that’s a difficult one to answer! They have all been lovingly created, and it’s a bit like be asked to pick your favourite child! When push comes to shove though, I’d say it’s a tie between Tidal and Launch from our AW18 range launching this summer. I think they really communicate where the brand is now headed – how we want to stay true to our roots and be experts in little feet, but really start to push the boundaries on how we are perceived as a brand.

Why is it so important to buy good quality shoes?

Just as a Mum or Dad would want to protect and nurture their growing child through life’s challenges, we want the same for their feet! We are proud to be experts in little feet, and it’s important to allow natural development of the foot, but also to ensure it has the right amount of protection and support throughout development. Good quality shoes should take the worry out of growing up, for both the child and the parent.


Start-Rite have won multiple LovedByParents awards and are truly loved by parents. What do you love most about working for the brand?

That’s so good to hear. I love so many things about working here! It’s a really exciting time for the brand, and these days we are known as a relatively conservative brand – the reality is that in the 1940s we were the brand that challenged perceived wisdom about children’s footwear. We carried out the country’s first nationwide survey of children’s feet, and we fundamentally changed the way children’s shoes are made. Our new identity returns this sense of pioneering spirit to the brand and hints at the pioneering spirit we aim to support in the children who wear our shoes. For me, as a Designer, it’s not just about updating some very cool heritage product with the latest looks and technologies, but it’s also about having, in effect, a blank canvas to design something completely new and shape our future. And all geared specifically to understanding how children live and move today. The Start-Rite Twins are about exploring, about setting off on a new journey, and I feel so privileged and excited to be a part of that journey too. It’s all about the child, but also the parents, and that reflects in the fact that we are all just one big happy family here in the office too!

#KeepExploring with #StartRite


Chloe Smith MP visits Start-Rite HQ


We were delighted to welcome Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North to our Start-Rite HQ this morning (6th April 2018) for a tour of our new look offices and Distribution Centre. During the visit, our Chief Executive Officer, Ian Watson, provided an insight into our business strategy and focus, and how Start-Rite has gained competitive advantage by better understanding the consumer through in-depth research; transforming business processes and innovating at a product level.

Chloe also got the chance to see our exciting new range of products and learn more about our new brand identity and wide-reaching digital and print communications campaign for 2018.


Chief Executive Officer, Ian Watson, said: “Our brand has seen many changes, and like all businesses, the need to continually evolve is essential for future success. It was great to share some of the exciting changes within the Start-Rite business with Chloe Smith, MP.”

Chloe Smith, MP, said: “It is good to see a very historic Norwich firm going strong and adapting to fit the 21st century. As a local MP I would always back businesses that are interested in investing in Norwich and can support good quality jobs here. Norwich is open for business and we should aim to attract and keep the best. And as a mum of a toddler it was also fascinating to see behind the scenes with children’s shoes!”


Putting our Product Front and Centre through a Fresh Print and Digital Campaign


Start-Rite CEO, Ian Watson, writes:

At Start-Rite Shoes we’ve spent the past 18 months transforming our brand and business from the inside out. I’ve talked previously about the fundamental overhaul our business has gone through. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve shown the world how we’ve changed through a wide-scale print and digital campaign around the central theme of “Keep Exploring”.

It was a proud moment and a personal career highlight last Sunday, opening the Times Magazine, to see our new brand identity and creative taking centre stage. Every employee in our headquarters in Norwich should be proud. They have all had a vested input and a part to play.

Together at Start-Rite, we’ve set about transforming our brand so that it is relevant and meaningful for today’s families. We’ve helped kids explore in comfort and confidence for 226 years but now we’ve challenged ourselves to go even deeper in understanding children’s growing feet and development and in understanding how children live and move today. Our renewed focus and purpose has led us to develop shoes that don’t just fit the foot, they fit the child.

Following in-depth industry and consumer consultation, our new styles are designed around the latest thinking in children’s health, developmental and social needs. We want to challenge the status quo and raise the bar on what parents should expect from their children’s shoes, with soles that are designed for life stages, high performance grip and built in slip resistance. Our creative draws these product enhancements into sharp focus while celebrating children’s innate pioneering spirit.


We’re proud to have worked with award winning design consultancy Studio Sutherl&. They have helped us modernise our brand to make it fit for the future. Critical to this has been how our iconic twins, part of our identity for over 80 years, have been depicted. We’ve had them re-drawn to look like children rather than dolls, to help create a sense of adventure and discovery. Our press creative includes extreme close-up shots that turn the shoes into landscapes for the new Start-Rite twins to explore. What child wouldn’t want to join them?

We’ve kept it real. Our digital creative content includes a series of short films depicting children. We’ve conveyed the best moments of childhood - from wobbly first walkers to bold school kids traversing playgrounds and living rooms, beaches and woodland. The films are accompanied by beautifully shot imagery of children’s feet as they explore their world.


We’re hoping our campaign will put our 226 year old brand on the radar of a new generation of parents and help to force reappraisal from consumers who think they know the us already. We want to show the insight, expertise and craftsmanship that goes into every Start-Rite shoe and to set it in the context of real children moving freely. The calm confidence of our press executions is off-set by the energy and dynamism of kids jumping, scooting and climbing in our film work.

Our campaign runs from March 2018 through to winter in a series of key lifestyle and national press. Our aim is to gain maximum visibility. Look out for us in Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Red, Marie Claire, Hello, The Sunday Times Magazine and The Times Magazine. Or maybe you’ll spot our ads on social. Either way, we’d love to know what you think.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our partners:
Strategy and copy: Jo Graham Consulting
Print creative: Studio Sutherl&
Digital creative: ShootMedia
Typeface artwork and digitisation: Roger Taylor
Twins illustration: Rebecca Sutherland
Photography: Fiona Burrage (lifestyle) Tony Hay (product)
Filming: Adam Clitheroe, ShootMedia


Start-Rite: Sharing the Pioneering Secrets of our Success
Best Employers, Eastern Region

Best Employers Eastern Region at Tattersalls, Newmarket. Picture: GREGG BROWN.

Start-Rite CEO, Ian Watson, writes:

Yesterday, I attended an excellent event with business leaders from the Eastern Region. The launch of the Best Employers Eastern Region, was attended by over 150 business and HR professionals.

The Best Employers project, is a partnership between recruitment company Pure, Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times publisher Archant, psychometric testing experts Eras and regional law firm Birketts. The objective being for business leaders to share their insights and ideas, showing other businesses how to use employee satisfaction to increase productivity, happiness and engagement levels across their organisation.

I was honoured to be asked to tell the story of the pioneering change underway at Start-Rite Shoes and shared the floor with inspirational leaders, Ian White, MD of Beckett Investment Management Group, Minnie Moll, Joint CEO, East of England Co-op, Lyn Walters, executive director of recruitment consultancy, Pure and Dr. George Sik, consultant psychologist at Eras Ltd. The Q&A was excellently moderated by Jeanette Wheeler, Partner at Birketts LLP.

I talked about Start-Rite’s 226 year old brand, its strong heritage and innate business value and the thorough review of operational processes that we have undertaken to enable future growth and continued success. During my 2 year tenure as CEO, I have set about leading transformational change. Critical to our ongoing success has been engaging our people, arguably our most precious asset, during a business turnaround. My focus has been to lead the evolution of a business where employees are long serving, highly skilled and passionate yet accustomed to a different pace.

We’ve set about creating a performance culture, where success is based around core values that are familiar to most families and are therefore in keeping with our brand’s family heritage and tradition. Values of mutual respect and teamwork are key. We’re fostering an environment where employees feel they are supported, trusted and able to have open and honest conversations.

Employees have also been encouraged to take ownership – of their role and the company’s future. This means having an outward, not inward, look at their role and how it can add value to our business and our consumer. We’ve increased the pace to satisfy customer and consumer needs and created a sense of urgency among employees. Everybody has a role to play in the transformation.

Start-Rite CEO Ian Watson speaking at the Best Employers Eastern Region. Picture: GREGG BROWN.

Staff have bought in to my clear and specific 3 year strategic plan, which places the needs of our retail partners and our target consumers at the centre of our business. As a result, together, we’ve been working throughout the whole business to make step changes across the entire operation. We’ve made bottom up improvements across our people, processes and systems, and have collectively created a business that is able to thrive and to drive success for its partners.

A physical manifestation of our change has been to modernise our headquarters, creating an open plan workspace for our 86 employees based here. The result is an inclusive and dynamic office environment that enables collaborative working across teams. We’re expecting wellbeing benefits to come as a result, including improved staff satisfaction, motivation and morale.

As a business, our mission is to enable children to be everyday pioneers. To enable pioneers, we need to behave like pioneers. This means having an unwavering focus on the people we’re seeking to serve. This means having the bravery to tread our own paths, the conviction to ask tough questions, and a constant thirst for improvement. This means pulling together to go further, faster – appreciating our diverse strengths and leveraging them in a way that makes us collectively unbeatable.

Our brand is professional and our product offering relevant to today’s consumer. We have a clarity of strategy that we have shared with our employees. We are building a new performance culture that everyone has a part to play in. We are writing the next chapters to our history. Watch this space.

We’re very much looking forward to taking part in this year’s employer’s survey, working in conjunction with Pure and Eras Ltd and seeing how the changes that we have implemented have helped to engage our teams.

Find out more about Best Employers
Best Employers Eastern Region aims to shine a light on topics that affect the workplace - how to motivate staff, keep them and attract them.
Presentations from the launch are available at bestemployers.prs.uk.com, along with examples of the survey.
Questions can also be posted on the Best Employers LinkedIn group at www.linkedin.com/groups/12082010.


Start-Rite reveals new brand ID - Shoes that give children the freedom to go their own way



Start-Rite Shoes has helped children explore in comfort and confidence for 226 years. We’re proud of our specialism and proud of our heritage. And we have spent the past year challenging ourselves to go even deeper - in our understanding of children’s growing feet, in our insight into how they live and move today.

The result is a new brand and product strategy anchored in the belief that the best children’s shoes should help them move freely. We’re here to remove worry for parents and remove barriers for children. With shoes designed around the latest thinking in children’s foot health. With shoes designed around specific needs rather than one-size-fits-all. With shoes that will endure whatever children put them through.

Research has reinforced with us how vital freedom and discovery are for children’s learning and development. It has also shown how this freedom can be compromised by today’s non-stop, hyper-organised lifestyles – and by parents’ constant juggling act as they manage time, resource and the needs of multiple children.

The new positioning is designed to place the child centre stage – driving new areas of product development based on how children move today. And underpinning a warmer, more dynamic personality for the brand.

Start-Rite Shoes CEO, Ian Watson, said: “While our heritage will always be vital to who we are, it’s my job to focus the business around the needs of families today and where we can help them go tomorrow. To do this we need to be in constant dialogue with parents, children and our retail partners. And to be constantly challenging, refining and innovating at a product level.”

We worked with one of the country’s top design consultants to bring the positioning to life in a way that drives reappraisal while remaining sensitive to the power of our specialism and heritage. Central to this were the iconic Start-Rite twins – part of our brand for over 80 years. By re-drawing them to look like children rather than dolls, and freeing them from their constraints within the logo, we have created a sense of adventure and discovery that returns to the spirit of the original 1930s illustrations.

Ian said: “We have radically modernised the brand while in fact returning it much closer to its original pioneering routes. Start-Rite today is known as a relatively conservative brand – the reality is that in the 1940s we were the brand that challenged perceived wisdom about children’s footwear. We carried out the country’s first nationwide survey of children’s feet. And we fundamentally changed the way children’s shoes are made. Our new identity returns this sense of pioneering spirit to the brand and hints at the pioneering spirit we aim to support in the children who wear our shoes.”

From a product perspective, the new positioning has embedded a deeper focus on the diverse ways children move. Our product design has always been driven by the changing needs of growing feet. Now our designs are also responsive to the varied personalities and activities of different children. So not only do we work with a team of experts in biomechanics, physiology and podiatry, we spend a lot of our time observing the ways children move.

Start-Rite Shoes, Head of Design, Claire Russell, said: “We’re here to create shoes that don’t just fit the foot but fit the child. Giving parents total confidence. Giving children footwear that meets their specific needs – be it the go-everywhere chameleon shoe, the survive-anything active shoe, or the feel-special smart shoe. It’s our years of experience and depth of specialism that help us to identify and address these needs.”


Start-rite CEO Ian Watson joins Norfolk business leaders in SYNC the CITY 2017





We’re delighted to announce our CEO Ian Watson will join the SYNC the CITY 2017 initiative in conjunction with the University of East Anglia (UEA) and SyncNorwich as panel chair of the judges.

Now in its third year, the SYNC the CITY programme is designed to showcase the best in technological talent and entrepreneurship with entrants pitching their start-up business ideas, during what is anticipated to be an electric 54-hour event. Ian will sit alongside local commercial experts with backgrounds in start-up business, technology and investment in judging the competition.

Speaking on his role, Ian said: “I am really proud to be asked to be a part of such a worthwhile scheme. SYNC the CITY supports local talent, bringing together all sorts of experienced leaders that can draw upon both career highs and lows, in helping mentor and steer those starting out in business. I’m looking forward to meeting the contestants and hearing their business ideas. Recognising talent and encouraging that to thrive is of ultimate importance for future industry competitiveness.”


Start-rite appoints new Finance Director following Women’s Leadership programme



Formally Head of People and Financial Controller here at Start-Rite, Jo recently completed the East of England Women’s Leadership Programme, run by Pure Resourcing and People & Performance Ltd, which is designed to enhance confidence, develop leadership skills, and support organisations through the role of a sponsor in parallel with developing women in senior leadership roles in business.

Jo, who is a CIMA qualified accountant, said: “After 19 years with Start-Rite I have a solid understanding of the business, but more importantly of the plans afoot to successfully develop our strategic business aims for the future. I am delighted to have been appointed as Finance Director and Company Secretary and very much look forward to working with the executive and senior management teams and the exciting journey we have ahead of us.”

CEO Ian Watson, who also acted as Jo’s sponsor on the programme, said: “We are thrilled to appoint Jo as our new Finance Director and Company Secretary. Over the last 18 months, she has shown great potential and has developed through a number of courses including the Women’s Leadership Programme, which will prove invaluable to the business as we move forward.”

Jo will work with the Finance, ICT and HR functions as well as with the wider business to further strengthen the management team at Start-Rite.


Celebrate your #SpecialMoments with Start-rite to WIN

To celebrate our new advert, we’re asking you to share your ‪#‎SpecialMoments‬ with us on social media and tell us about your most cherish memories with your children. Perhaps it was the first time they crawled or walked? Or maybe it was when you bought their first pair of shoes or started school? Let us know and share a picture or video if you have one. We’d love to hear your stories…we’ll pick a winner at random on Friday 18th March to WIN a voucher for a pair of Start-rite Shoes.

TO ENTER: Simply comment on our Facebook post, tweet us using the hashtag #SpecialMoments so we can see your post or email us. We look forward to seeing your #SpecialMoments.

T&Cs

Deadline for entries is midnight 25th August 2016 / One entry per person / A winner will be drawn at random / The winner will be notified within 14 days of the closing date / The decision of the Promoter is final and no correspondence will be entered into.