Key Account TRACKING: N Brown Group

Winning new business takes time, planning, and requires a thorough understanding of the changing priorities at the companies you’re targeting. Pearlfinders tracks developments at some of the UK's most innovative companies, helping our clients build a full picture of the challenges being encountered, new faces joining the IT team, and any major new developments affecting how your prospects are approaching IT. Here we profile the retailer N Brown Group, following its recent announcement that it is considering closing all of its retail stores.

September 2011 – first stores opened

N Brown opened two Simply Be trial stores; the company's IT Business Development Manager said that this initially did not have much of an impact on it's IT infrastructure, but we were told that the company will look to develop a scalable solution for store rollouts when the planned expansion goes ahead.

january 2012 – in-store innovation

Tablets are being rolled out across the company's retail estate, although how much customers will engage with these is yet to be assessed. As the average age of N Brown's audience is higher than other retailers, it wants to be a "follower rather than a leader" when implementing emerging technology. 

January 2014 – multichannel approach to retailing

IT Programme Manager explains that in-store and online IT development projects run parallel at N Brown, as the company looks to integrate its mobile and ecommerce sites, and align these with its retail locations. High street expansion is still on the agenda, with the group planning to open twenty stores this year.

April 2014 – Cloud & Infrastructure

After a period of heavy investment in customer-facing solutions, the company's Lead Architect told us that it is working with IBM to deliver a three year infrastructure project. Improving systems integration to develop its multichannel approach is a key part of this, while N Brown will also begin to adopt cloud. 

October 2015 – Becoming a digital-first retailer

Head of PMO outlined the company's plans to become a digital-first retailer and place less of an emphasis on print catalogues. By "fully embracing ecommerce", N Brown wants to take advantage of the fact that almost 70% of new customers make their first purchase online.  

May 2017 – moving telephony to the cloud

The company's most immediate priority is implementing a cloud-hosted telephony system. N Brown's Senior IT Service Manager explained that the business is now looking to form strategic partnerships with tier one providers, such as Oracle and Vodafone, to accelerate development of its IT estate and position itself at the forefront of innovation. 

January 2018 – digital transformation

N Brown is now looking to explore DevOps, developing a distinct way of working to quickly implement digital solutions that will enhance customer engagement, such as chatbots and smartphone applications. At the end of 2017 the company's CTO said that N Brown now thinks of itself as a “tech company not a retailer”, and it is interested in engaging with suppliers from outside the sector that can tailor solutions to a retail environment. 


Senior IT Service Manager told us that investment in in-store technology is seen as something of a balancing act at the moment. N Brown will always look to technology to provide a differentiator in the sector, but considering the current retail landscape the business is very wary of a solution falling "commercially flat". As footfall continues to decline the company is considering closing all twenty of its retail stores, which only generate around 2% of group revenue, pivoting towards its burgeoning ecommerce business.