Put your best foot forward
A business that started at a kitchen table is now selling in shops, online and in homes all around the world.
We talk to Mark Granger, Director of Operations at Pavers, about the history, successes and challenges of running a global business with over 1,700 staff and over 170 stores in the UK and Ireland. The business remains close to its Yorkshire roots and is headquartered on the outskirts of York.
Getting the right fit
Pavers was established by Catherine Paver, in 1971, because she found it difficult to buy shoes with a comfortable fit. Cathy started from home and sold through events at people’s homes, parties and catalogues, eventually moving into retail stores and outlets in shopping malls.
When the internet arrived (yes there was a time before the internet!) Pavers embraced the new opportunity and developed an award-winning e-commerce website in 2000, expanding into their own TV channel soon after.
Wherever you are, on the high street, on the move, or on your sofa, Pavers have sales channels that deliver their products with excellent customer service.
Growth through acquisition
The family run business, now in its third generation, has embraced change and grown organically. What changes have you made to continue this expansion?
In the last couple of years Pavers has taken on two additional businesses.
We bought Jones Bootmaker in 2018, a well-known brand with 47 locations, that had fallen into difficulties. Regrettably, we had to close a few stores, however we are looking towards a brighter future through the retention of 34 stores and re-launching jonesbootmaker.com.
In addition, we took on the high-profile brand, Herring Shoes, which is very much an online business aimed at the upper end of the market.
Pavers now has a comfort brand, middle market brand, Jones Bootmaker and a high market brand, Herring Shoes.
Right up your street
The high street has taken a bit of a battering over the last decade. How has this affected Pavers, and how do you account for your success?
We’ve looked at this as an opportunity because, whilst it’s tough in trading, we have got Pavers onto the high street, in the right locations, with the right commercial deals.
Online to your door
How have you combined mixing bricks and mortar with online sales?
Obviously having a very user-friendly website is important, but behind the scenes is our warehouse, ensuring that the product availability is there for our customers.
We make sure that we have good stock availability and a very quick route to market, so when our customers come into our store they can find the products they require.
The sky is not the limit
Why did you expand into TV?
An opportunity became available to purchase a channel on the Sky platform, and we took advantage of this new route to market, investing in producing shows on a pre-recorded 24-hour loop, showcasing the products.
In marketing terms, there is a bit of cross pollination through all of the channels, our strategic aim was to get ourselves in a position where we are available to the customer however they wanted to purchase.
On the high street, in shopping malls, online, in their pocket and on the sofa, whatever channel the customer wants to purchase from, our product is available.
Happy staff, happy customers
The tone of voice in your marketing material is warm and friendly, is that something that’s natural from your business?
Absolutely. Our strategy, our vision, and our values are all about being a very friendly and easy organisation to deal with, and we hope that transmits itself through the website and when people interact with us in-store. Our customer service is the core to our success.
One of our strategic imperatives is our people and we spend a lot of time developing our people. We were awarded the Investors in People award in 2016 and we see that as the essence of our business. Making sure our people are fully trained, fully skilled, and motivated to deliver the service elements that we want as a business is at the core of Pavers’ success.
Foundation of success
What have you done to help motivate staff?
The Pavers Foundation was established in 2018. The Paver family and the business wanted to create a charitable legacy after the passing of our founder, Cathy.
The Pavers Foundation is an employee-led initiative, with four members of the family and five staff members on a committee to adjudicate and allocate what we contribute in the areas of health, education and community.
The Foundation is funded by a percentage of company profits, an incentive for staff and the business to do well.
Your site here in York uses solar panels, is that as much about saving the planet as reducing costs?
Absolutely. Our Head Office was always designed with the environment in mind.
We’ve tried to put as many features into our buildings as we can, including LED lighting in the warehouse which minimises our impact on the environment, it’s a bonus that it helps the bottom line too.
Ingredients for growth
Your plans are to nearly triple your turnover. How do you account for success?
When I joined the business in 2008, we had a turnover of around £40 million. This year, if everything goes to plan with the acquisitions, we should turnover around £150 million, which is quite an increase.
As a business, we understand our niche and we don’t try to be all things to all people.
We always try and build on the strengths that we have and look at the areas that we can address, in terms of overcoming any weaknesses we take the right opportunities and guard against threats.
Plans for the future
What are you investing in at the moment?
Our biggest investment right now is an extension to the warehouse here in York, which will double the footprint of the business. The expansion will allow the business to grow further over the next five to ten years, which will allow us to remain in York for the foreseeable future. This is great news for existing employees but also for the York economy as we will be creating new job opportunities as we continue to grow as a business.
World of opportunity
As a business that sources products globally, how has Brexit affected your model?
It’s mainly from a supply chain perspective. We have buyers and agents who visit various locations in Brazil, Europe and the Far East. You can’t get away from the fact that Brexit could impact any business. We’ve had to think about pre-loading product, to ensure we are protected from issues such as getting products across borders, into the warehouse and then, of course, making them available to our customers.
Our plan is that if Brexit were to have a real negative effect from a European supply perspective, we must ensure alternatives in other parts of the world and we could move that business from Europe. That’s not the way we want to go, but we must have a contingency plan.
As a large, and growing, business, how do you engage with the wider business community in York? How do you handle local issues that affect your business?
We engage with the Chamber, which helped us secure planning permissions initially.
We can enlist the Chamber’s support in smoothing certain things through, they can also act on our behalf on some of the issues that we face for instance with landlords.
I think by engaging with the Chamber in some of the issues that face our business they can put our points of view to both the councils and the political side of the business and ascertain what would help us as an organisation.
Getting away from it all
How do you unwind? What do you do to get away from it all?
I love most sports, I used to play cricket and football, I still play golf, squash and racquet ball. So, I would say I’m quite active despite the advancing years!
I’ve been lucky enough to visit one side of the world to the other and spent quite a lot of time in the States. I have travelled to Australia, New Zealand, most of Europe, India and Dubai. Travelling is fantastic, I love experiencing other cultures.