Gardiners Bros was established in 1860 with Footsure, the safety footwear specialist business, launching in 1980. From its headquarters in the Gloucester area, Gardiners Group remains a family-owned footwear distribution partner within the UK and increasingly Europe.
While traditional wholesale is still the cornerstone of their business, managing distribution rights for leading global brands in the UK market, virtual distribution services, and a rapidly growing B2C operation are all driving rapid growth and cementing Gardiners’ position as a trusted partner for many of the most recognisable retailers and brands.
Gardiners’ growth has in part been enabled by innovative use of technology, winning ‘Best Use of Technology’ from Footwear Today three years running, 2018-2020. This growth and innovation had also led to an increasingly complex IT environment, and this complexity was starting to become challenging to manage and scale.
Gardiners CIO, Mark Holloway said:
‘We are a fast-moving, nimble and flexible business, and within technology, we’ve achieved great things. However, our IT teams were increasingly spending too much time keeping current systems running and not enough supporting new demands from the business and providing innovative solutions to meet our customers’ varied needs. We started looking at how we could do things differently, and Freeman Clarke Principal Julian Starling helped us realise that change had to be more profound than we thought. As a result, I moved from Operations Director to become CIO to drive this change agenda.’
Julian’s initial focus was on understanding the legacy IT environment and understanding how the IT team were working to support the business. This allowed a high-level IT strategy to be defined as work started to nail down the company’s business system requirements. Adding structure and insight has allowed for progress in a fast-moving and complex environment.
Managing a combination of in-house developed solutions as well as more modern third-party business systems will require different roles, responsibilities, and skillsets within the IT team, as well as a close partnership with third parties for the support of critical systems. Julian has worked with the new CIO to shape the new IT function but also identify trusted partners for a range of requirements.
Gardiners are now forging ahead with replacing their WMS and ERP systems, while taking on a new warehouse and continuing to grow.
‘Julian has pushed and challenged us over how we currently work and how we need to change to adopt new systems and ways of working. It’s often only when someone from outside brings in new concepts or ideas that get to the heart of your issues that rapid progress can be made.’
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Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it ‘fractional’) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition.
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