Former shadow business minister to speak at bira’s High Street Conference

Labour politician Chuka Umunna has joined the line-up of speakers for the British Independent Retailers Association (bira)’s High Street Conference in May.

Chuka has been MP for Streatham since 2010 and was Shadow Business Secretary from 2011 to 2015. With the debate on Europe reaching fever pitch, he will talk about what any potential changes to Britain’s relationship with Europe could mean for independent retailers.

Chuka will join several other speakers at the event, which will be held at Chateau Impney in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, on Wednesday May 11.

The future of retail and the opportunities available to independent retailers and suppliers will be the focus of the conference. Bira says it has secured ‘game changers’ from within, as well as outside the retail industry, to illustrate new trends and developments that will shape the way customers shop. The conference will look in particular at ‘how digital technology can work with, rather than against, bricks and mortar businesses’.

Shanker Patel, ceo of the Lords Group of Companies, will give the retailer address, drawing on his experiences in business.

The Lords Group is a highly diversified family-owned firm involved in retail, distribution and manufacturing of construction materials, employing over 200 people. Its principal trading arms are Lords Builders Merchants and award-winning multiple housewares retailer Lords at Home, which has just scooped the international gia award for housewares retail excellence.

Shanker will be joined on stage by Greg Williams, deputy editor of WIRED magazine, which reports on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy and politics. He writes on a variety of subjects, including innovation, business, creativity and ideas. Greg will speak about what’s new and what’s next and how businesses and brands can best prepare themselves for what’s coming.

Claire Harper will also give a presentation. The owner of online childrenswear store IndiaCoco and former marketing director of retail chain Mamas & Papas is a leading business figure with experience in change management, branding and enterprise. She will share her journey from corporate marketeer to fledgling entrepreneur.

Finally, ‘gift wrap guru’ Jane Means will talk about her global business. Her gift wrapping courses attract clients worldwide, and she provides training in the UK, Singapore and Australia. She has trained staff at London retailers Fortnum and Mason and Harrods and provided services for royalty and celebrities. Jane is brand ambassador for Scotch Tape, and recently launched her own gift wrapping book.

Delegates will be able to network with fellow retailers and suppliers and will have time to talk to bira’s service partners who will be available during the day, alongside the speaker programme. Bira direct, HSBC, bira legal, bira insurance, bira pensions, Global Payments, bira bank and Spiral Utilities have all confirmed they will be on hand to speak face to face with members about the services they can offer.

 Retailer Vin Vara, owner of The Tool Shop Group in London and bira national president 2016-2017, said: “The speaker programme is just one part of what will be a day full of inspiring and valuable experiences for retailers. We know that time is short, so retailers will want to make the most of their time out of the shop. That’s why we are providing a truly stimulating day that will leave retailers feeling excited for the future.

“I personally really value the time to speak with other retailers and the service partners on the day. With a few short conversations, we are able to save ourselves time and money and ensure we are making the most of our bira membership.”

The day concludes with the bira Awards and Gala Dinner, where bira will announce the winners of the British Independent Retail Awards 2016, which recognise and reward the achievements of bira members.

The conference and awards are sponsored by bira direct, Dulux, Stax, Toolbank.

Visit for more information and to download the booking form.


Labour politician Chuka Umunna was Shadow Business Secretary from 2011 to 2015

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