We made our first steps back in 1924 when husband and wife team, Charles and Eveline Clinkard opened their first shoe shop in Middlesbrough. The business model was simple, provide high quality shoes and a first-rate customer experience. Almost 100 years later, those values continue to influence the day to day running of the company, from product selection to customer service.
Following the Second World War, Eveline Clinkard introduced children’s shoes to the store and they quickly became a success. Charles and Eveline had four children of their own which led to correctly fitting children’s shoes becoming a passion of Eveline’s and she would personally measure and fit children who visited the shop. Ensuring that children’s shoes are correctly fitted remains a core principle of the business.
In 1958, the second Charles Clinkard store opened in Finkle Street in Stockton. That same year, founder Charles Clinkard decided it was time to retire, leaving a thriving company for Eveline and their sons Colin, John and Roger to grow. The three boys were determined to take the business to new heights and a year later the company expanded once more when we opened our third store in Redcar.
The company continued to grow during the 60s with a fourth store opening in Northallerton. Our Northallerton store sits directly on the high street and was a focal point for those passing by, as it still is today!
The 1970’s saw the opening of our flagship store in Newcastle’s brand-new Eldon Square shopping centre as well as the opening of our Leeds store, our first store outside of the North East. The company celebrated its 50th birthday in 1974 and, in that same year, Colin Clinkard joined the business full time after selling his accountancy firm. In 1976, after 52 years with the business, Eveline decided that it was time to retire, passing the running of the business to her sons.
The 1980’s saw the company go from strength to strength with new stores openings and Roger Clinkard becoming President of the Independent Footwear Retailers Association. In 1989 Roger’s son Charles joined the business after working in retail management at Bally Shoes. Expanding across the wider footwear trade, Intershoe, a wholesale business founded by Roger Clinkard, became a part of the Charles Clinkard company. In January 1986, Intershoe acquired Gabor - which remains one of our most popular brands to this day. Originally founded to innovatively import Scandinavian winter boots, Intershoe remains an integral part of the Clinkard group and has expanded alongside the business.
In 1991, the company opened its new offices and warehouse premises to accommodate for the growth of the retail and wholesale side of the business. Eveline House, at Preston Farm Business Park became our new base. Four years later, Charles Clinkard (grandson of founder Charles) was appointed a Director. In 1997, Colin retired and thus at the end of the decade Charles was appointed Managing Director, a moment he says is the proudest of his life.
As the Millennium dawned so did major changes for the company. In 2001 the company launched its online store, and in 2006, we worked alongside VisualSoft, to expand our E-Commerce department including our website and digital marketing. The Clinkard Group expanded further in 2008 when it took over 12 stores from Stead and Simpson. The internet quickly became a huge part of the business and enabled us to reach customers who couldn’t make it to our retail stores!
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 and picked up a Special Recognition Award at the North East Business Awards. In 2013, Rachel, Colin’s daughter, become E-Commerce Director to boost our growing E-Commerce department. In 2016, it became clear that we had outgrown our head offices and so we made the move to new custom-built offices back in Middlesbrough, the town where it all began.
The beginning of a new decade saw many changes for the company, and the world as a whole. During this time, Tim Payne, who was previously Trading Director, became Managing Director of Retail in 2021 – the first non-family member to be appointed since the beginning of the company! Tim described this as a great source of pride. As we move towards 2024, we are planning our celebrations 100 years of The Clinkard Group!