Start-rite Shoes to revamp Norwich offices as new boss’s plan hits its stride

Ian Watson, the chief executive at Start-Rite. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ian Watson, the chief executive at Start-Rite. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Work has begun on a revamp of Start-rite Shoes' Norwich headquarters into a start-of-the-art design facility, as the company marks its 225th anniversary.

Ian Watson, the chief executive at Start-Rite. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ian Watson, the chief executive at Start-Rite. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

The plans form part of chief executive Ian Watson's vision to update the brand and move it into a new era, having become the first boss to be appointed from outwith the company's founding family.

The new-look open-plan offices for the children's shoe-maker will house 80 employees, with the aim of encouraging working between teams, while the reception area and showroom will also be refurbished. Mr Watson, who took the helm last summer, said: 'We are writing the next chapter in our history and are committed to making that here in the UK. My past experience has shown me that the building has a fundamental impact on employee productivity.

'Our redesign will enable cross-functional working and will help us to attract and retain the most talented employees. We are investing heavily in our brand and as a design-centric business, our office environment must support us to work smarter and sharper to ensure we are an organisation that is fit for the future.'

The company hopes the revamp at its premises in Peachman Way in Broadland Business Park will result in improved staff satisfaction, motivation and morale.

Upon taking over last year, Mr Watson said his vision was about 'evolution, not revolution' but outlined plans to reduce the number of ranges and focus on selling them in higher numbers.


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Part of the plan was to market the range of school shoes internationally, targeting areas such as Dubai, Singapore and locations with large ex-pat communities, as well as updating the company's offer at home.

Parent company James Southall and Company turned over £22.76m in the year to December 26, 2015, according to accounts posted at Companies House.

Start-rite made international headlines in 2014 when Prince George wore the company's shoes for his first official Christmas pictures, leading to a 10-fold increase in demand for the £36 buckled shoes.

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