After 100 years in business, DB Shoes is still on the front foot

Posted by Sarah Taylor on Thu, Mar 05, 2020

At Sanderson, our customers’ successes are our successes, giving us reason to celebrate. We are delighted to hear that Sanderson customer, DB Shoes Ltd, is marking an incredible milestone in 2020, as the company has been in business for 100 years.


Here’s their story of the ups and downs involved in running a 100-year-old brand…

A family story - 100-not-out

In 1918, identical twin brothers, Jack and Bill Denton, returned home to Rushden, Northamptonshire, from the front line of the First World War. They were both keen cricketers, but limited career opportunities in the sporting realm led them into shoe manufacturing, and in 1920 they decided to set up a business manufacturing men's shoes and boots. 

DB Shoes had a successful early start, including manufacturing shoes for the war effort in the 1930s, but it was in the 1960s that the business really started to grow and evolve in the hands of Jack’s sons, John and Hugh Denton. 

DB Shoes became an early adopter of PVC and PU direct injection moulding – increasing their ability to cost-effectively attach soles to each shoe, which led to sales soaring to 25,000 pairs per week.

“It was a huge gamble whether people would accept this technology, but the gamble paid off, and we are now the oldest injection moulding company in the UK.” explains current director, David Denton.

Moving forward to the 1990s, DB Shoes Ltd suffered like many shoe businesses, with existing customers moving away from UK manufacturers to sourcing cheaper imports from abroad. In 1997 the third generation of Dentons, Charles and David (also identical twins!), took over control of the company and moved over 80% of their production overseas, whilst maintaining some UK manufacturing, ensuring the future of the business.

In order to survive, DB Shoes needed to find a new niche market, and the emphasis turned to the manufacturing of wide fitting and deep toe boxed shoes, along with evolving the business to meeting the demands of multichannel digital commerce – while still retaining the firm’s core values.  

“Many of our original values from 100 years ago remain unchanged,” David shares. “We can attribute much of our success through the years to the company’s total commitment to quality and comfort, and our products still represent great value for money.”

Revolutionary change

To support the new niche in the market, Charles and David realised that ecommerce was crucial and in 2003 launched its specialist wider fit shoes website whilst still selling to High Street retailers, wholesalers, export customers and through its own shoe shop in Rushden.  

“The routes to market and methods of customer communication have changed immeasurably, and we must evolve with them.”  David advises.

When their in-house system reached its limits in 2013, DB Shoes knew it was time to invest in specialist multi-channel retail software to secure its long-term future – selecting the Sanderson Elucid system to future-proof its business.

A clear vision for growth

Having fine-tuned an in-house system for 10 years, DB Shoes knew exactly what they wanted from outsourced software – and their chosen system needed to efficiently manage export, trade and retail customer requirements.

“We drew up a very clear specification, and while we knew no platform would fit our needs exactly, Elucid could provide 85% of the functions we needed out-of-the-box." David shared. “The Sanderson team were then able to adapt the solution to provide some of the additional features we needed."

DB Shoes went live with Elucid in 2015, and has been growing their use of the platform ever since, through a combination of internal efforts and work by the Sanderson team.

“One thing we didn’t fully appreciate at first, but which has been critical to our business, has been the open structure of Elucid.” David mentions. “None of the DB Shoes team have formal computer training, but – in collaboration with Sanderson – we’ve learned how to manage simple developments in-house, to control the cost of the system."

“We can write reports or test new features ourselves, such as drop shipments, to see whether our customers are receptive. Bigger developments can then be handed over to Sanderson. This approach ensures we get value for money, and the system works well for our requirements.”

Building a future together

In the five years since going live with Elucid, the relationship between Sanderson and DB Shoes has strengthened, and there are many things that we want to achieve together, to ensure that DB Shoes can meet the demands of the next 100 years.

"Moving to Elucid has moved our business forward leaps and bounds, delivering efficiencies and cost savings."

“The Sanderson team are genuine and hardworking and, being a smaller company, we benefit from many of the features they are developing for larger retailers and manufacturers. We can be part of the big league, and this shows in the fact we won the Footwear Industry Award for Brand of the Year for Comfort/Wellness in both 2017 and 2019, and were highly commended in the same category in 2020.”

As for DB Shoes’ ambitions for the next century? We expect that manufacturing innovation will allow us to stay ahead of the field, designing and crafting quality footwear with the very latest materials and best equipment available.” David concludes.

“We want the brand to continue to grow and thrive – hopefully under the watchful eyes of the next generation of our family. But, most of all, we want DB Shoes to continue being a brand of which we are proud. We are definitely 100 and not out!”

Find out more about Sanderson retail software, and how it can future-proof your business.


Topics: Retail Solutions, Multi-Channel Software, Customer Experience, Multi-Channel Retail, Improving retail operations, retail software