At the event, held on October 31 at BHETA’s headquarters in Birmingham, Kieran opened his presentation by outlining the changes that have been taking place at the family-owned store group to make it ‘fit for the future’.
Hosted for the first time by BHETA housewares sector manager Seema Grantham, the forum kicked off with a presentation from Ian Gilmartin, industry director for retail and wholesale at Barclays. He noted that while overall retail spend remained ‘robust’ and rising, the challenge is ‘not about lack of custom, but that custom might well present itself in ways that are different from days of old’. The trick, he said, is being able to navigate the new world.
The second speaker was Dominic Speelman, co-founder and ceo of Buyfair Global, who described Buyfair Global as ‘a premium B2B version of eBay – with a twist’. Created in response to the commercial and environmental challenge of global overproduction, Buyfair Global is an auction website where sellers can choose whom they sell to, thus ensuring that their brands do not fall into inappropriate hands; and buyers can access brands which might not otherwise have been achievable. Inspired by Dominic’s ‘day job’ as managing director of homeware supplier MAKE International, Buyfair enables users to address the problem of overstock constructively – maximising usage and minimising waste and storage costs.
Next up was Phil Pond of trend forecasting agency Scarlet Opus, who discussed briefly trends in colour, pattern and texture, but focused on the frustration of consumers at the business world’s perceived slowness to own the challenge of sustainability. He explored the potential of recycled materials for product and packaging manufacture; products which help consumers to create less waste; products repurposed to focus on dietary change and the so-called ‘reduceatarian’; and conservation gifting. He added that the implications of these trends for marketeers, stylists and overall corporate social responsibility were key.
Another speaker to address the current thinking on over-production and waste was Dan Black, co-founder and lead designer at housewares supplier Black + Blum. Charting the history of product design at his company, Dan highlighted the importance of ‘products with soul’ – products which are ‘needed and used, and not guilty of jumping on various bandwagons or greenwashing’. Using examples of Black + Blum’s own product development, he illustrated not only the importance but also the practical possibility of creating products which are ‘built to last’ even in everyday use, in reusable packaging, which does not go out of date but improves with age to achieve ‘antique’ status.
Kieran McBride’s outline of Fenwick’s proposition and the opportunities for the department store group’s suppliers concentrated on ‘what counted at the discerning end of modern retail’.
BHETA said: ‘He was frank and informative regarding a period of internal transformation including new centralised functions on the warehousing and merchandising side of the business and a fully integrated stock management system. A ‘good, better, best’ approach manifests itself in classic, contemporary and fashion-forward terminology. Fenwick has taken this approach and applied it to the business as a whole – to include all stores and categories.
‘Kieran outlined the implementation of this approach across multiple categories and in the evolution of Fenwick.co.uk. Details of the new offer included a local purchasing strategy with local marketing support for each store; assistance for time-poor consumers in creating ‘end-results’ such as bouquets; the introduction of new and exclusive products in the run-up to Christmas; and cross category concepts, where garden furniture will work with other categories, to achieve an overall outdoor living solution.
‘Kieran confirmed that in order to attract new consumers, onboarding new suppliers and brands will play a crucial role, as will developing the strong relationships already built with existing ones. The idea is to integrate related products, including the gradual and strategic expansion of the Fenwick own-brand proposition.’
BHETA chief operating officer Will Jones commented: “Retailing continues to move fast, driven by the evolution of different shopping habits and consumer attitudes. This forum was a unique insight into the opportunities for the future.”
L-R: Dominic Speelman, Alastair Fisher, Will Jones, Kieran McBride, Seema Grantham and Phil Pond