Leicestershire shoe firm UK Distributors set to increase sales
A family-owned shoe wholesalers which is set to increase sales this year, has appointed a new board director to help maintain its position as an industry leader.
Chris Brown has been made a director at UK Distributors, formerly Marlows Shoes, of Fleckney, 30 years after he started at the company packing shoes in its warehouse.
The appointment makes him the only person currently on the four-strong board who is not a member of the Marlow family, which started the firm in 1927.
Chairman Derek Marlow said Mr Brown, who will be in charge of IT and operations, had been responsible for developing the e-commerce side of the business, which accounts for between 35 and 40 percent of all orders.
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Mr Brown started to develop the company website in the mid-90s, when most of the firm's rivals had not even contemplated using the internet.
By 2002 an online ordering system, created by Mr Brown for the company's customers, was up and running.
His appointment comes as the company, which distributes to independent stores in the UK and abroad and has 1,000 customers, looks to increase turnover to £16 million this year, from £15 million last year.
Mr Marlow said: "Last year, financially, we were about 1 per cent down and this year we are running at 9.3 per cent up.
"Things are definitely improving and we are exporting all over, to places as far away as Nepal."
On Mr Brown's directorship, he said: "He has developed a major part of the business – a large part of orders being placed with the company now come through the internet."
Mr Brown said: "We were one of the only companies in the footwear industry to have a website, when no one else had contemplated it.
"By 2002 we were running an e-commerce site which let customers order online.
"People used to pick up the phone when they wanted to order but things have changed so much in a short space of time and we have been leading it.
"It has been a gradual process though, because a lot of the independent footwear retailers were not as tech-savvy as the big chains."
Mr Brown said, as director, his aim was to continue to develop the company's e-commerce site.
He said: "In my opinion, the footwear industry has lagged behind when it comes to technology.
"We would like to continue showing people the way and to make things better and easier for our customers."
The company, which employs 69 people, was based in Wigston until 1985 when its warehouse burnt down and it relocated the business to Fleckney.