The challenges facing high street retailers are all too well known with increasing pressure for traders to adapt and experiment in order to survive.

Perhaps one of the best examples of a business that has moved with the times to prosper is CHO, in Carlisle, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last month.

Founded by managing director Anthony Irving as high street country clothing store Country House Outdoor, in Lonsdale Street, the company has developed into an award-winning online fashion retailer, with ambitions to rival some of the biggest names in the sector.

CHO stocks around 80 fashion lifestyle brands, including Barbour – which was one of the original lines it sold in 1999 – K-Swiss, Armani, Birkenstock and many more.

“I decided we would embrace the internet early on,” says Anthony.

“The turning point for us was around the banking crisis. That was when I decided to redesign the website and get behind it.”

The company now has a team of 25 and ships as many as 600 parcels a day to online customers.

Its plan is to double revenue over the next five years, potentially creating 25 new jobs.

It still has a physical premises on Lonsdale Street, although online sales now make up the vast majority of its turnover.

Anthony said: “In year one of the internet business it outperformed the store, just. That was a massive turning point.

“In those days we used to walk up to the Post Office and post things, now we have multiple couriers collecting things one to three times a day.”

The rebrand to become CHO was part of the move away from its country clothing roots to embrace a wider range of fashion and appeal to a wider market.

“We now seriously position ourselves as a mid to premium fashion retailer,” says Anthony.

The company employs two full time photographers, who are constantly at work taking pictures of products and the models wearing them.

“We bring models in twice a week to try and bring the stock to life,” says Anthony.

“We want to have our own brand and our own business and therefore we need to put our own personal identity on what we’re doing.

“Brand acquisitions are quite key to us and quite a large focus of that is going to be on the ladieswear side of things.

“Our average consumer is between 29 and 35 now and we’re very evenly split in terms of our consumer, but our product mix is bias-led more to men’s. We think we’ve got the opportunity to do menswear really well and womenswear really well and then potentially look to bring in a kids’ offering in the future.”

As director of international e-commerce and buying, it is Gareth O’Rourke’s job to make sure his team of six keep up with the ever changing trends in online marketing, and use all of them to reach customers effectively.

“We use a range of methods, we’ve used influencers, we use social media, we use retargeting, remarketing, email marketing, we use affiliates – any digital principle you can think of, we use it,” he said.

“We definitely do a lot more than other people of our size do from a digital perspective and we’re always trying to push the boundaries in terms of how we communicate with the consumer. It’s a challenge because it’s one of the fastest evolving industries.

“You can’t keep up with everything all of the time as one individual, but we have an amazing team.

“Everyone has a voice and so we try and encourage people to push across new ideas and new opinions. I will always encourage them to challenge. If there is something we can improve on, then we will improve on it.”

Although the size of its online business continues to far outstrip its high street shop, Anthony says there are no plans to close its doors.

“If people like us don’t have the passion, work ethic and desire to support our store, then I don’t know what the high streets – not just in Carlisle – but up and down the country are going to look like,” he said.

“It’s absolutely in our roots that we want to maintain that presence.”

Anthony said it had been a distinct advantage for the business to establish itself as an online player early.

“When I look back on certain products that worked very well for us, we were perhaps one of three or perhaps the only seller.

"The fashion market is more competitive but there is a greater audience out there too.

“It’s about keeping up on the digital side and being willing as a team to try new things constantly.

“We want to climb further up the premium ladder."