Will from Seasalt talks Digital Transformation in the South West
We’re delighted to announce that Cornwall-born fashion brand Seasalt will be sharing their South West success story on the Ecommerce Unlocked stage on the 3rd of April!
In preparation, we sat down with Will Charnley, Omnichannel Director at Seasalt, to find out a bit more about how the company has championed Cornish culture and conquered cross-border selling.
Will Charnley, Omnichannel Director at Seasalt.
So Will, what is your role at Seasalt and what does it involve?
My role is ‘Omnichannel Director’, which is essentially the Sales Director. I’m accountable for all sales across the business — whether that be in-store, online or our wholesale proposition.
For the UK and abroad, we’re building a new digital platform and ecosystem for customers. My role is overlooking the digital transformation programme, implementing third party technologies around things like search and user-generated content. We’re also talking about efficiency tools within the project, so we’re introducing a PIM system, a different way of delivering product information onto our various website storefronts and catalogues, etc.
So, the selling channels and digital transformation are my two big areas of responsibility. It’s fast, it’s busy, it’s challenging - but it’s very fun!
Could you give us some background on Seasalt and how the business has evolved to its current position?
Very simply, it started out as a single shop in Penzance in 1981, where three brothers and their dad moved down from the Midlands. They ran a little shop, a general clothing store, selling to the local population; workwear for fishermen, creators, artists, and so on — hard-wearing clothing. They founded Seasalt in the early 2000s when they wanted to start selling their own clothes, created from their own designs.
Since then, the business has flourished. We will have 70 shops in the UK halfway through this year. Our website featured number two in the Which? guide of customer satisfaction, which we’re very proud of. We now ship to just over 165 countries in the world; we’re in the United States, the UK, Ireland, Germany, and in various other countries.
It’s great to promote a South West regional brand. Our new website and technology will localise our proposition to a global audience with additional languages and currency, which is very exciting.
What three words would you use to describe the Seasalt brand?
Creative, innovative, and inclusive.
Which retail channels does Seasalt use to sell its products?
Our three major ones are our stores, our website and our wholesale stockists. That’s where we sell to key accounts like QVC, Next, or more individual department stores throughout the UK.
You've seen a decade of year-on-year sales growth, with online sales growing strongly in Germany and the USA recently. What do you think the main factor behind your international growth is?
I’d say there are probably two or three reasons, but first and foremost is the quality of our products. That is fundamental to our brand and what we stand for — customers are always receiving and feeling value for money, which is incredibly important.
Some customers love the fact that we’re Cornish, in this distinctive regional part of the world. We really represent the inspiration of where we live in our garments.
The way in which we do service, so the way that we say thank you to our customers for shopping with us, to the way they connect with us in our Cornish inspiration - it really makes a difference.
I think those things really stand the test of time; it’s about being humble and sincere, not about trying to drive every sale — we’re far more nuanced and I feel that comes across effectively to our customers. We’re very grateful to be a part of their lives.
What are the benefits and challenges involved with being a South West-based retailer?
A benefit is the fact that we're in Cornwall — it's at the core of our DNA. The inspiration taken from the environment — the creativity and the industriousness of the South West — really shines through.
That’s very much true from the days when Cornwall pioneered industry, all the way through to the flourishing art schools of St Ives. That creativity is really shaping our products, facilitating an appealing lifestyle.
The disadvantages can include from that of a talent attraction and retention, location as well as logistics. Hiring can be challenging, and recruiting for our roles can take over a month — it's quite a lot longer than what I was used to when I worked in London.
That’s probably the biggest one. The other would support from third parties. Whether we’re in Central London or Cornwall, it’s about making sure that we achieve that same level of service.