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N Brown was established in Manchester in 1859, a time when the city’s cotton mills were the beating heart of the global textiles industry. While much of the garments industry has migrated east to Asia, N Brown has grown and diversified, aided by technological advances introduced throughout its 160-year history.

The company started out selling clothing from mail order catalogues where customers would pay for items on installments. Fast forward to 2021 and it’s a fully digital fashion retailer with five distinct brands offered via e-commerce platforms. Throughout all this change, N Brown has stuck to its core values. Its inclusive ethos is built on a ‘fashion for all’ philosophy – the company offers stylish clothing for people of all ages, body shapes and income levels.

A customer-centric digital transformation

As is fitting for a company that grew up in the world’s first industrial city, N Brown has always been an early adopter of new business and retail technology.

“We first started investing in tech in 1968,” says Adam Warne, Chief Information Officer at N Brown, “so we've always been quite entrepreneurial with how we use tech in the business.”

N Brown’s success is based on meeting the needs of underserved customers while making their shopping experience as frictionless as possible. Its clothing lines are inclusive rather than exclusive, and it also has a collection of homeware products. A range of payment and credit options are available to customers to help them spread the cost of their purchases.

Over the last five years, TCS has worked in partnership with N Brown to conceptualize, design and build out the technology platforms that support a modern, efficient and robust digital enterprise. The systems provide secure, real-time data and business capability on-tap.

The relationship started with delivery of a large multichannel transformation program ushering in the digital e-commerce era at N Brown.

Adam Warne says the digital transformation journey has been shaped by the needs of the customers in a rapidly changing fashion retail environment. “Their primary touch point is our websites,” he says, “so that's where we've spent a lot of time, certainly over the last 12 months, investing in what's called headless architecture. Headless gives us the ability to change the website really quickly and support a test and learn approach.

“TCS haven't just been a technology partner for us. We've been working with them on operating models, how we effectively step forward through this world of hybrid working.”


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A partnership built on shared values

Printed in giant typeface on the walls of the open-plan offices of N Brown is the message “Together for the Customers.”

It’s a core value for every member of the team. As part of a partnership, TCS team members quickly assimilated this, and N Brown's other values into their digital transformation work. Moving beyond a customer-client relationship in this way has been key to the success of the collaboration.

The real magic happens when the values and purpose of both organizations align. That’s the view of Alyson Fadil, Chief People Officer at N Brown. “Not only is it fundamental to the digital journey that we're on, but it's important that those partners are also aligned in order to serve our customers, our brand and our colleagues. So, we feel they're just an extension of us and our business, having those aligned values allows us to have a one team mentality. So, we don't see our partners as being suppliers. We see them as just that, trusted partners that help us on our vision to create the best e-commerce business we possibly can.”

From Industrial Revolution to technology evolution in retail

With the UK now moving away from pandemic restrictions, the N Brown leadership team is focused on the constant development of its digital offer to meet and exceed customer expectations in a constantly evolving retail environment.

And the pace of change in the sector is still accelerating, according to Sarah Welsh, CEO of Retail at N Brown.

“In my 20 years in retail, I've never seen it stand still, but I think the last two years have proved to us the momentum and pace at which it can move,” she says. “Customer demands are fast and furious. Some customers that traditionally wouldn't have shopped online have now got used to how to shop online. As a modern online retailer, we have to keep pace with that.”

“The technical investments we're making now will serve to keep us front of mind for our customer base. But we have to keep on moving forwards. Partnerships like TCS who’ve been fundamental in the transformation of our business into a more digitally savvy business. That’s been absolutely crucial.”


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