Fashion retailer hosts jobs fair as order books boom

Gary Jefferies

ONE of Kent’s fastest growing companies threw open its doors to prospective employees last week as it continues to ramp up its exports.

Would-be recruits arriving at the new Childrensalon headquarters on Thursday (April 27) could not help but be struck by the sheer scale of the operation.

The occasion was also marked by a visit from Mayor David Neve, who upon touring the facility admitted to being ‘absolutely staggered’ by the dynamism of the company.

Known to many simply as a top-end fashion boutique on the High Street which caters to the children of discerning parents, the privately owned company boasted a £61 million turnover in 2016, which itself was a 50 per cent increase on the previous year.

But although its presence on the High Street is modest, those working along Kingstanding Way, off the retail estate, would have witnessed the company’s growing presence.

The new headquarters, which the company moved into in March, occupy two large units and bring the total number of units it owns in the area up to six, with a combined floor space of almost 127,000 square feet.

The 30 people who visited on the day would have doubled the workforce just seven years ago, but now the firm employs nearly 300 individuals which is expected to grow to 450 by the end of next year.

The makeup of the workforce itself reflects the highly international nature of the company, with the customer service team speaking 25 languages between them.

Much of Childrensalon’s growth is driven by exports to over 130 countries, leading CEO Michele Harriman-Smith to observe that her business is ‘better known abroad than it is in the town.’

Its wealthy customers can choose from more than 260 designer brands, including Gucci, Burberry and Young Versace, with company dealing with an average of 1,000 orders per day.

The success of Childrensalon is down to the combined efforts of Mrs Harriman-Smith and her husband George Smith, the Chief Creative Officer.

Mr Smith, who can claim fame by creating the iconic poster for the musical Mamma Mia, as his title suggests, ensures the company stays creative through his large design studio where he has custom-made most of the kit.

It was also his idea to first branch out online, leading his initially sceptical partner to learn computer programming and launch their website in 1999.

Her oversight of the business, which she has run since aged 25 after taking it over from her mother, has led it to be recognised by trade publication RetailWeek as one of the top 10 fastest growing fashion retailers in the UK.

It is for this reason the firm needed its new headquarters, Mrs Harriman-Smith said, adding: “Our newly refurbished HQ represents an important milestone in the Childrensalon history. The new headquarters strongly express who we are and will enable us to grow for years to come. We were honoured to have had the attendance of the Mayor and Mayoress as well as all the applicants who came and made our first Jobs Fair a great success.”

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