Welcome to the latest edition of our “Meet the Client” blog series; shining a light on Datitude's clients, meeting the people behind the brands, and hearing what Datitude means to them.
This edition features Thomas Clay, Head of IT for Slater Menswear, whom we’ve been wanting to catch up with ever since we heard him raving about Datitude! Whilst it may have taken us a while (life’s been particularly hectic for Thomas with the opening of Slater Menswear’s new store in York and his wedding and honeymoon imminent), it’s been worth the wait!
First things first…. Slater Menswear is an institution in Glasgow. Tell us a bit more about the business for those who may not be so familiar with it.
You’re right; Slater Menswear is an institution in Glasgow. The store on Howard Street in Glasgow even features in the Guinness Book of Records for the world's largest menswear store; at 2,600 square metres, it held over an incredible 14,000 suits at the time of the award!
The company was originally founded by Samuel Slater in 1904 and started out as a tailor’s shop. Following a devastating fire in 1973, Samuel’s son Ralph started from scratch and established the retail business as we know it today. So, we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year.
Slater Menswear remains proudly family-owned and Ralph’s son, Paul Slater, is the Managing Director now. The business has grown over the years to become the UK’s favourite menswear retailer and the go-to destination for formal menswear and wedding hire in the UK.
There are 27 stores (we’ve just opened a new store in the centre of York - on Davygate, opposite Betty’s Tea Rooms) and an online UK store, and we offer a range of value-added services and experiences to help men dress better. A new made-to-order venture, born out of a vision to cater to the growing demand for exceptional wedding attire for grooms, launched last year, initially in the Glasgow store, followed by Manchester earlier this year.
So, what attracted to you join the business and what does your role as Head of IT involve?
My entire career, over 20 years now, has been in IT (Editor’s note: if you know Thomas, you’ll agree he doesn’t look old enough!). Starting as a technician, I’ve worked in all the different functions, progressing into more senior, management roles. I was approached about the Head of IT role here while I was IT Manager for a luxury jewellery and diamond merchant, and having deep retail-based experience was something that stood out.
As well as being an institution, Slater Menswear has a fantastic reputation as an employer in Glasgow, so I was naturally drawn to the opportunity.
And, the role sounded incredibly exciting with a digital transformation programme starting to modernise all our systems. This is my fourth year, so it was clearly a good career move!
As Head of IT, I’m responsible for ensuring our technology is fit for purpose so the stores can function seamlessly, efficiently, and effectively in providing an excellent retail experience to our loyal customers – and ensure that my team are on hand to provide support and assistance to the business should they have any issues. I need to ensure that the team are trained and involved in the various changes in the business to allow them to do this. As a member of the senior management team, I’m also involved in business operations, working alongside the Finance Director and other members of the board.
Since joining, we’ve replaced or updated all our technology, including our store POS and stock management system. Leading this modernisation programme has been exciting and rewarding, although not without challenges – like implementing a new stock management system during lockdown!
Looking back, what’s been achieved is amazing, including the support from our tech partners like Retail Assist, MWC Partners, and of course Datitude.
You were introduced to Datitude by Retail Assist as part of the new stock management system project. Tell us more about this and Datitude’s role.
We were replacing our outdated stock management system and had selected Merret Pro, Retail Assist’s supply chain and merchandising solution. It made sense to replace our outdated reporting solution at the same time (it was Linux-based, cumbersome, resource-intensive and inflexible!). Retail Assist brought Datitude into the project to develop a reporting solution.
Merret Pro has enabled us to improve stock visibility and product availability, optimise store inventory and be more efficient in our fulfilment.
And Datitude’s platform has made a massive difference to our reporting capabilities. I’ve used a lot of BI tools during my career, and Datitude’s application is something else. It’s transformed our reporting capabilities.
For a start, we now have live data and can report down to SKU level – neither of which we had before, and there aren’t many solution providers who offer SKU level reporting. And we’re able to accurately report on returns as online purchases returned to stores are now being attributed to ecommerce.
We have all the data we need through a suite of bespoke reports, plus new data requests are easily and quickly accommodated by the Datitude team. Trading reports are automated and emailed directly to store managers and key stakeholders including the merchandising team. The self-service element is incredibly valuable as users can slice and dice, and extract data according to their needs.
It's given us so much more flexibility, is less resource-intensive (data users no longer need to rely on IT for reports or spend time pulling and manipulating data from different sources) and users can’t break anything (so to speak!).
Thankfully, the days when we couldn’t provide the business with the data it needed, or for it to take forever, are long gone!
Moving to a self-serve reporting model has been a big step change for the business so it’s encouraging to see the tool being adopted and embraced so completely.
Stores are a fundamental part of Slater Menswear. How do you see the future of the high street?
It’s a shame the high street can get a lot of negative press, particularly when stores are closing, and units remain empty. There is a future for the high street and retail’s role in it is key. They’ll always be consumers who want to go in-store to see, feel and try clothes and speak to knowledgeable product experts and sales assistants.
Take Slater Menswear as an example; the stores are the lifeblood of our business, and the in-store experience can’t be replicated online (and that’s not the purpose of our online store).
We’re certainly seeing a resurgence in the high street and customers enjoying shopping in-store. I think the most successful high streets are the ones that are regenerating and reinventing themselves into go-to destinations for retail and leisure experiences. There’s huge investment going into Glasgow which is attracting big names as well as independent boutiques.
What one thing would you recommend a first-time visitor to Glasgow does?
Of course, I’m going to say visit Slater Menswear!
Brands and retailers are gearing up for peak. What tip would you give others?
Make sure the tools and tech are in place and everyone is on board to optimise performance.
It’s always a pleasure talking to our clients and our deepest thanks go to Thomas for taking the time to share his insights and feedback. We wish Slater Menswear a very happy 50th anniversary!
To find out more about our work with Slater Menswear head over to our client page.
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