The Chief Executive of Childrensalon, one of the largest companies in Tunbridge Wells, feels standing by their ‘unconventional approach’ has driven recent success.
Michele Harriman-Smith, alongside husband George, has overseen the transition of a small family firm selling children’s clothing from a shop to a multi-million pound online empire.
Last year Childrensalon, now based on Kingstanding Way estate, made a record £80million turnover and now employs 319 staff.
Speaking at a press event on Thursday [March 15] the Chief Executive told the Times how the brand has come a long way but has stayed true to its values.
‘I think it does have an unconventional approach and I like it to be me,’ said Ms Harriman-Smith, who was named Private Business Women of the Year 2017 by UKPBA.
‘When I was young I was someone who would pick up or try to help a lost dog, and that is the kind of mind-set I have brought to the company.
‘We treat every customer as one of our family and believe every mistake is an opportunity to learn.’
Childrensalon was established in 1952 by Rene and Sybil Harriman and was well-known on Tunbridge Wells High Street for years before Michele, their daughter, and George Harriman-Smith took over.
In 1999 the pair made a key decision to start a website, and became early pioneers in, what was then, largely unexplored territory for a fashion firm.
While online trading was initially only a supportive venture, it quickly became the central focus of an expanding operation with the baby, boys and girls clothes [for ages 0 to 16] attracting a worldwide clientele.
The company sells designer brands, including Gucci and Stella McCartney Kids, and also some garments designed in-house. This is mostly online but the company maintains a shop in Tunbridge Wells High Street.
By 2010 Childrensalon were ready to move into their current home, a large warehouse off North Farm retail parks, and continued to win awards, including recently being ranked at 45 in the Sunday Times Top 100 companies to work for.
The firm’s latest venture is creating an iOS app, launched last year to allow customers easy access to buying clothes.
Ms Harriman-Smith continued: ‘We are getting better at what we do. In the beginning, we didn’t know what we were doing but we have improved.
‘The app has been going really well, a lot of customers have been using it.’