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Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, Brenda Coade, co-founder of Designer Childrenswear and Dionne Evans, e-commerce and international business development manager.

Global childrenswear retailer launches dedicated digital hub

A luxury childrenswear retailer is set to create up to a dozen highly-skilled tech roles after opening a new office in a popular digital hub.

Designer Childrenswear, an independent family-owned retailer that has been rooted in Sunderland for over 30 years, has opened a new office in Sunderland Software Centre to cater for the rapidly-growing demand for its products from overseas.

The company has reported a 50 per cent rise in online sales year-on-year since launching its e-commerce website in 2005, with the bulk of orders coming from customers in overseas markets such as the UAE, the US, China and Japan.

The company’s new 353 sq ft office, based at tech hotspot Sunderland Software Centre, will allow the business to manage all of its creative, digital marketing and ecommerce activity in a dedicated space and will provide the firm with the space it needs to continue with its rapid expansion.

Designer Childrenswear employed just six people back in 2015 and now employs more than 40 people in a range of roles from retail to warehousing, photography and digital.

And, over the next six months, after receiving support from MAKE it Sunderland (delivered by Sunderland City Council), the company has bold ambitions to continue growing its headcount with the recruitment of up to a dozen new members of staff in highly skilled roles such as content creation and digital marketing, as well as ecommerce specialists.

Speaking about the company’s growth, e-commerce manager Dionne Evans, said: “We have worked tirelessly and invested heavily in growing the digital side of the company over recent years but even we are surprised at the rate at which it has grown.

“For the first-time last year, we witnessed huge international growth and are now increasingly selling more and more products to customers overseas. The opening of this new, dedicated office, means we can centralise all of our digital activity and continue growing this side of the business which has huge potential for further expansion.”

The company looked at multiple destinations prior to Sunderland Software Centre, but the team were won over by the proximity of the hub to its three existing sites in the city centre and the infrastructure and facilities on offer.

Dionne added: “We work very closely with our colleagues in the newly opened store on Derwent Street as well as our photography and distribution teams, all of which are in the city centre, so it was vital that we didn’t move too far away.

“We also needed to ensure our new space had the right facilities in order to help us continue growing, such as superfast internet and the ability to work beyond the usual 9-5 hours and Sunderland Software Centre ticked all of the boxes.”

As well as recruiting for content, digital marketing and ecommerce specialists, the company is also on the lookout for customer service operatives to handle its online live chat service as it launches a series of new websites.

The company is using ‘geolocation’ to launch nine websites dedicated to serving its customers in key overseas markets and as part of this, will need to recruit staff that can provide instant support to customers in multiple time zones.

“Transitioning from a family-run, local retailer into an international business has been challenging and one of the biggest obstacles we’ve faced is continuing to provide the same level of customer service to our international clients as we do to our local clientele,” Dionne adds. 

“But it’s something we’re gearing up to do, and this move is of strategic importance in allowing that to happen.

“Since the store opened over 30 years ago, we’ve built a revered reputation of delivering great customer service and this is something we’re keen to maintain and strengthen as we continue growing internationally.

“The Software Centre’s secure office space is open 24/7, which means we can have members of staff working here outside of the usual 9-5 hours.

“For a company like us, it’s vital that we can offer flexible working hours - and that we’re easily accessible for our customers and partners across the globe - and this latest move will allow us to be just that.”

The opening of the new office is the latest chapter in the company’s impressive growth story following its recent rebrand and the opening of its state-of-the-art £500,000 store in Sunderland city centre in November last year.

Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “Designer Childrenswear is a fantastic success story for the city and we’re delighted that they’ve chosen Sunderland Software Centre as home for their new digital hub.

“At a time when the retail sector faces huge change and some challenge, the company is proving that through innovative thinking and by embracing new technologies, retailers can still prosper and grow. We wish them all the luck for the future and will continue to support the company in any way we can as it furthers its development.”

For more information about Sunderland as a place for software and technology companies, visit www.makeitsunderland.com, call +44(0)191 561 1194, or email info@makeitsunderland.com.  Or follow @MAKEitSund on Twitter for updates from the city.