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Composable Commerce



Great British Brands Thriving on Shopify

Get a dose of ecommerce inspiration this new year, as we examine eight British brands prospering on Shopify and Shopify Plus, including three of our very own Swanky clients!

Written By
Hannah Smiddy

From fledgling startups to enterprise giants, retailers of all shapes and sizes, from every corner of the globe, are turning to Shopify and Shopify Plus to build compelling ecommerce experiences that drive revenue at pace. 

Today, we’re turning our attention to British brands doing exactly this. 

Whether it’s their enduring commitment to traditional British craftsmanship, or their undeniable synonymy with British culture, these successful brands are flying the flag for Great Britain on Shopify, moving from strength to strength on a platform built to accelerate business growth.

Without further ado, here are eight British brands thriving on Shopify and Shopify Plus …

#1 Kent Brushes

As the oldest hairbrush manufacturer in the world, and one of the oldest established companies in Great Britain, Kent Brushes is a brand steeped in a rich and intriguing history. Their illustrious background tells a tale of meticulous craftsmanship and continuous innovation, stretching all the way back to 1777. Their record of excellence in the brush making industry has even been recognised by the granting of Royal Warrants for nine consecutive reigns! 

With each product representing quality British craftsmanship, it’s no surprise that some of the country’s most established department stores, including Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason, proudly stock Kent’s collections.

Having designed and built Kent’s Shopify site ourselves, we may be a little biased, but we love the way their ecommerce store pays homage to their British manufacturing heritage. Such a unique and fascinating history deserves to be shared, and the interactive timeline feature on their site is the perfect way to immerse shoppers in the brand’s story.

#2 Penguin Books

Long-established British publishing house Penguin Books is famed for creating a “paperback revolution”, democratising quality literature and bringing the joy of books to millions of people across the globe. 

Legend has it that the idea behind this progressive new publishing house was first conceived in Swanky HQ’s hometown of Exeter, when young publisher Allen Lane was left stranded at St David’s train station (on his way back from visiting Agatha Christie, no less!) with nothing to read. He was left somewhat unimpressed by the poor quality and unaffordable cost of the station bookstall’s offering, and so vowed to bring good quality, affordable books to the masses. 

The company’s Shopify store houses a world of gifts and experiences to inspire and delight book lovers, ranging from bookends and bags to clothbound classics and pencil cases.

#3 Emma Bridgewater

Synonymous with British pottery chic, iconic home and kitchen brand Emma Bridgewater has captured the imagination of customers across the globe with beautiful designs that seamlessly blend creativity and originality with a timeless English elegance. 

Despite finding success on a global scale since its launch in 1985, Emma Bridgewater maintains its commitment to the Great British pottery industry, using time-honoured skills to hand make and hand paint every piece of pottery at its UK factory, which lies in the heart of the Stoke Potteries region. 

Today, the brand has expanded beyond pottery, bringing its quintessentially British designs to stationery, wallpaper, fabrics, picnicware and more – all with the aim to “make everyday life a little bit nicer”.

In 2018, after growing tired of their somewhat lacklustre ecommerce site, and with their sights set on an upgraded mobile experience that offered better navigation and search, Emma Bridgewater made the switch to Shopify Plus. The brand now boasts a premium online store that reflects the quality they have become famous for, as well as their significant place in British culture.

#4 Coes

No.4 on our list is a nod to the classic British department store. From a humble menswear shop in Ipswich with just £100 worth of stock, to an empire of five department stores across the East of England, independent enterprise Coes has come a long way since first opening its doors back in 1928.

From homewares and hirewear to sports apparel and school uniforms, every Coes store is a treasure trove of clothing and accessories from the globe’s leading brands.

After 80 years of brick-and-mortar retail, the brand began experimenting with ecommerce in 2008, allowing customers to shop their wide range of products from the comfort of their own home. 

In 2020, Swanky had the pleasure of migrating Coes’ online store from CShop to Shopify Plus, leveraging our extensive design and development expertise to create a streamlined, intuitive ecommerce experience.

The replatforming and build project went beyond the native functionality of Shopify Plus in order to cater for the complex requirements of an online department store. Amongst the bespoke development work we completed were custom landing pages for high-level product categories, a custom-built Made to Measure page and a bespoke product personalisation tool.

Discussing the project, Sam Wilkinson, UX Designer at Swanky, said:

“We pushed the boundaries of Shopify Plus with the sheer volume of products and extensive filtering options. After a lengthy design process, it’s great to see it all in action now.”

#5 BBC Shop

An iconic British institution, the BBC is the world’s oldest national broadcaster. “The Beeb”, as it’s colloquially known by some, has played a prominent role in British culture since its inception in the 1920s.

The BBC Shop offers US and Canadian audiences the very best of British programming, with box sets and audio books developed around top BBC brands. Not only that, shoppers can stock up on traditional English tea and biscuits to enjoy whilst indulging in a vintage BBC series. There’s also a range of classic British collectibles to purchase, from royal baby mugs to beefeater tea towels.

The broadcaster recently switched their ecommerce platform from Magento 1 to Shopify Plus, eager to make the most of the latter’s unrivalled reliability and flexibility.

#6 The Cambridge Satchel Company

Inspired by the traditional British leather school bags of yesteryear, The Cambridge Satchel Company was born at a kitchen table in Cambridge with a budget of only £600. Dedicated to supporting British craftsmanship and preserving important trade skills, the brand lovingly handcrafts all products in its Midlands-based workshop.

The Cambridge Satchel Company soon surpassed any of founder Julia Deane’s expectations, featuring in Italian Vogue in its first year. Twelve years on, the brand has opened a collection of brick-and-mortar stores across the UK, collaborated with iconic British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, and been awarded The Queen’s Award for International Trade.

Their journey hasn’t been without its challenges though. Faced with mounting maintenance and development costs on their previous ecommerce platform (which was contributing to annual losses of £3 million), the brand migrated to Shopify Plus in 2017.

Not only did they see a dramatic decrease in costs, but their new site required significantly less external development help. The team was able to once again focus on creating quality, stylish products, rather than pouring all their efforts and resources into a complex and clunky ecommerce platform.

#7 The British Blanket Company

With a passion for British design and craftsmanship woven into the fabric of their family business, brother and sister team Bethan and Joe curate gorgeous selections of contemporary blankets, throws and picnic rugs. Their vibrant, eye-catching designs bring comfort and colour in abundance!

The British Blanket Company embraces the country’s long weaving heritage, helping to breathe life into a fading industry. Their beautiful woollen blankets are lovingly woven at traditional mills across the British Isles, without synthetic fibres or mass production in sight. 

In 2019, this Bristol-based brand joined Swanky as a regional winner at the South West finals of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, before going on to scoop the national prize for Family Business Entrepreneur of the Year!

The British Blanket Co.’s ecommerce site is powered by Shopify, which provides the perfect platform for Bethan and Joe to grow their business. 

Speaking of business growth, our Growth Accelerator team have loved working with this sibling duo throughout 2020, with the aim of getting The British Blanket Co. seen and heard across the web. Our ecommerce experts have been busy crafting a winning SEO strategy, writing keyword-optimised blog posts, and running a series of engaging email marketing campaigns.

We can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for this flourishing British business!

#8 Bremont

The brothers behind award-winning Oxfordshire-based watchmakers Bremont are driven by a love of aviation, engineering and adventure. Inspired by the advancements of British watchmakers before them, they are passionate about reinvigorating this traditional trade on home soil. They design, manufacture and assemble all of their watches in the UK, and keep the company cogs turning from Bremont HQ in Henley-on-Thames.

Bremont’s online presence effortlessly matches their premium product offering, with the brand’s commitment to quality and luxury reflected in their Shopify Plus store’s slick design and lightning-quick load times.

Your Shopify Plus experts

Feeling inspired by these successful British brands on Shopify? Whether you’re kicking off a new ecommerce venture, migrating your online store to Shopify Plus, or in need of some expertise to give your digital marketing strategy a boost, Swanky is here to help!

Get in touch with our certified Shopify Plus Experts to find out how we can help you unlock your ecommerce potential in 2021.

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