Tin toy aeroplanes and mannequins in Super\u00adman costumes greet you as you enter the Kennington headquarters of clothing retailer White Stuff.\nThe theme continues inside the building \u2014 a former Hackney Carriage depot \u2014 with flock wallpaper, clocks your grandparents would have had and a 1970s kitchen with all its kitsch accessories.\nThere is a mock street full of White Stuff outlets, and the building also has electric car-charging points, showers for cyclists and a car club rental vehicle on site. Mike Padfield, Head of IT at White Stuff, also \u00adref\u00adlects his organisation\u2019s ethos, greeting CIO wearing one of the company\u2019s distinctive shirts.\nIt\u2019s 26 years since White Stuff\u2019s founders, who still own the company, began printing T-shirts to sell on the ski slopes of the Alps. Today the company has 80 shops, an e-commerce offering, call centre catalogue services and sells through department stores including John Lewis.\n\u201cWe are a truly multi-channel business,\u201d Padfield says. He explains that the business sells 10 per cent of its stock through wholesalers, 20 per cent through its e-commerce and catalogue channel and its high street stores still dominate the business model.\nAll White Stuff clothing is the company\u2019s own design, and with the design teams sitting just around the corner from Padfield\u2019s office, there is no clear distinction in the building between IT, finance and fashion.\nWhite Stuff sources manufacturing in the Far East, Turkey and China like most and aims at the \u201csmarter and fashionable end of casual\u201d, Padfield explains.\n\u201cWe are still looking to expand with a further 20 shops and there are plans for \u00adinternational expansion.\n\u201cWe now need to be a cross-channel business with a single view of the customer,\u201d Padfield says of the new business processes and IT strategy he has been driving since March 2010. \u201cThe journey started 18 months ago when we looked at replacing the point of sale (POS) system and then took a wider view to look at what we could do to be a proper cross-channel retailer.\n\u201cFourteen months ago we reviewed all of the business processes and then went and talked to the IT suppliers about how their solutions would fit our business. We are defining what our customer promise will be as part of this review.\n\u201cThe business was very open to reviewing the processes. A set of workshops helped us look at the way we do things now and from that we worked out a process,\u201d he says of the cross-company review.\nCross-channel strategy\nPadfield\u2019s aim is to create a single view of all White Stuff stock across all channels, and to reduce manual processes, especially when shifting stock from the retail to the e-commerce operations.\nAs the company defined the new processes which it needed to achieve this, Padfield and his team sought the best IT solution to make it happen.\nK3 Retail Business Solutions was selec\u00adted from a shortlist. The Oxfordshire company is a specialist in Microsoft Dynamics and White Stuff will use a Dynamics-based system for POS, warehousing, financials\u00a0 and CRM while keeping its existing e-commerce infrastructure.\nPadfield has high hopes for the Dynamics CRM system. \u201cWe are good at recording customer details online, but not at capturing that information elsewhere in the business,\u201d he says.\nThe rollout has already begun, with the finance team moving onto Dynamics in April 2011. The POS was already in pilot phase in four stores and Padfield expected rollout to be completed by March 2011 alongside that of the new stock management tools from K3. As these bed in White Stuff is considering a click-and-collect \u00adoption to tie together e-commerce and the retail shops.\n\u201cK3 is our main platform on HP hardware. We have also built a new data\u00adcentre at our distribution centre in Leicester which will mirror the datacentre in London. We have updated the server farm at the same time.\u201d Although virtualisation is a key strategy for many CIOs, Padfield consciously avoided it at White Stuff.\n\u201cThe extra cost of physical servers was not as much as going virtualised. At a later date we may well adopt it into our strategy,\u201d he says.\nWhite Stuff has used retail IT specialist\u00ad Retail Assist as part of the integration of the new technology. The firm also provides out-of-hours IT support for White Stuff.\n\u201cWe use them for specific pieces of work when we don\u2019t have the bandwidth in house,\u201d Padfield explains. He has an IT team of 10: an operation group which supports the infrastructure, some SQL \u00addevelopers who deal with the data reports generated by the business and who are now becoming the White Stuff experts on Dynamics, and some integration and data migration experts.\n\nComms to commercePadfield joined White Stuff in March 2010, just as the banking crisis and the ensu\u00ading financial slowdown were at their worst and the retail sector was weathering it particularly badly. Interestingly, Padfield joined from BT Expedite, the retail systems arm of the major telecommunications provider, but at White Stuff he didn\u2019t opt for the systems his previous employer offered.\n\u201cIt\u2019s not as suitable for the smaller footprint of stores that we have,\u201d he explains.\u00a0 \u201cI was part of the account management team at BT Expedite, but I was not directly involved when I was invited to interview for White Stuff.\u201d\nLike every IT leader to have done a stint vendor-side, Padfield is glad for the experi\u00adence and believes it makes him a better \u00adretail IT director.\n\u201cBT was a chance to see what life was like as a supplier. I expected to be there for three or four years, but it was only two in the end. But it was enough to get an understanding of life under the skin of a supplier and it has proved useful as it works in the vendors\u2019 favour as well as we learn that there is no point in beating up a supplier.\n\u201cIn my experience the more mature vendors realise that retailers are not changing their systems that often. It is five years for a till and POS system, and back-office systems stay in place for 10 years, so the relationship between the vendor and the retailer has got to work over the long term.\n\u201cVendors now appreciate that and if as a CIO you want to do something different, then another of their customers will want to do the same thing at some time, so they will work with you on the development.\u201d\nPadfield is already collaborating with K3 to enhance the quality control side of its systems to the benefit of White Stuff and no doubt others.\n\u201cWhat was interesting was how well White Stuff rode the recession,\u201d he says. \u201cIt is an incredibly strong brand with a strong customer following. It has good retail abilities, so it\u2019s a good place to be.\u201d\nPadfield clearly enjoys the relaxed atmosphere at White Stuff too, which even allows people to bring their dogs to work.\n\u201cIt\u2019s great to have such a wide range of people here, and I\u2019ve just had a chance to try on next season\u2019s range,\u201d he says.\nRetail is a sector that seems to keep its CIOs and IT leaders, with few of them heading off into manufacturing or financial services. Padfield is no different, and spent 12 years of his early career at Marks & Spencer before joining the Mosaic Group, which today is known as Aurora.\nAs befits the IT chief of such a dynamic, youthful brand, Padfield cycles to the Oval office from Marylebone station and all three of his children play rugby \u2013 including his young daughter.\nAs the economy improves and the project ends there is a positive vibe about White Stuff, and real expectation that its processes will improve just as consumers have a little more in their pockets.