The Clinkards – a dynasty in fine footwear
When Charles and Eveline Clinkard opened their first shoe shop in 1924, they little knew they were founding a footwear empire – and a family dynasty that still runs the company 90 years later.
Today, the Clinkard Group has 33 stores across the UK, and managing director Charles is the third generation to be in charge.
The company became established throughout the 1930s and 1940s and just after World War Two Eveline introduced children’s shoes to store and they very quickly became a success.
In 1950, the second Charles Clinkard store opened in Finkle Street in Stockton.
That same year founder Charles Clinkard retired, leaving a thriving company for Eveline and their sons Colin, John and Roger to grow, and the three boys were determined to take the business to new heights.
In 1953 the company opened its third store in Redcar, and continued to expand over the coming decades.
But the 1960s brought tears as well as joy.
Founder Charles died in 1964 and four years later the company opened its fourth store, in Northallerton, while Roger founded wholesale business Intershoe, innovatively importing winter boots from Scandinavia.
In the 1970s, the company opened its first store outside the North East, in Leeds.
In 1974 the company celebrated its 50th anniversary and Colin Clinkard joined the business full time after selling up his accountancy practice.
Two years later the company welcomed customers to its flagship store in Newcastle’s spanking new Eldon Square indoor shopping mall.
That same year, Eveline retired after 52 years in the business.
Eveline had trained her boys well, and the company continued to flourish.
The close-knit family remained committed to the business, encouraging and supporting each other through good times and bad, including the death of John Clinkard, a key member of the family team, who died in 1978 aged 44.
The 1980s saw the company take a leap forward.
In 1984 Intershoe Ltd secured the distribution of the Elefanten brand for the UK.
In 1986 and Intershoe secured the Gabor agency for selling the brand in the UK.
A year later the company opted to recruit a non-executive Chairman to the Board in the shape of Bill Spicer – an accountant with considerable retail experience.
In 1989 Roger’s son Charles joined the business after cutting his retail management teeth at Bally Shoes.
The same year Roger Clinkard became President of the Independent Footwear Retailers Association.
He added to that success a year later when he won Footwear Personality of the Year at the Independent Footwear Retail Dinner – the first person to receive the accolade.
When the company opened its new offices and warehouse premises at Preston Farm Business Park in 1991, there was only one choice of name – Eveline House.
Four years later Charles Clinkard (grandson of founder Charles) was appointed a Director.
A year later Rachel Clinkard – Colin’s daughter – joined the company to boost the merchandising department.
The company saw Bill Spicer take a well-earned retirement in 1997, succeeded by Ian McBride formerly of KPMG, who took the baton from Bill and brought his own brand of experience and personal skill to the role.
In 1998 Charles Clinkard was appointed Managing Director – the proudest moment of his life.
Four years later the company won the Best Family Footwear Store and Overall Winner Award at the EMAP UK Footwear Awards.
In 2004 the company launched its online store, and expanded further in 2008 when it took over 12 stores from Stead and Simpson.
Celebrations resounded in 2012 when the company was named Best Footwear Multiple Retailer at the Footwear Today Awards.
Twelve months later Managing Director Charles was named Footwear Personality of the Year at the same awards, and picked up a Special Recognition Award at the North East Business Awards.
The awards continued in 2014 with the company winning Best Footwear Multiple Retailer at the Footwear Today Awards for the second time.
2014 has also seen the introduction of Istore – an in-store facility allowing customers to view and order from the full range of shoes.
And Charles recently made a Price Promise – assuring customers that the company is offering them best value.
With 90 years behind them, the Clinkard family eyes are firmly fixed on the future.