The High Street Conference organised by bira (British Independent Retailers Association) on May 15 at The Cotswold Water Park in Cirencester featured a host of speakers, reflecting the event’s theme of ‘Rich Heritage-Bright Future’, which aimed to celebrate and acknowledge how independent retail is not only part of the UK’s history, but also how it will play a major part in its future too.
Speakers included Martijn Bertisen, senior industry head – retail of Google UK; BBC business journalist Steph McGovern; Neil Moss, head of business solutions for the National Skills Academy for Retail; TV broadcaster David Domoney; and Bill Grimsey, whose varied career has included senior posts at retail chains Wickes, Iceland, and Focus DIY.
Delegates also had the opportunity to hear directly from retailers, with Emily, Miriam & Peter Motts of Thorns DIY providing the Honorary Annual Retailer Address.
A new feature for 2014 was the bira Expo, with 20 bira service partners and suppliers offering interactive sessions with a summer fete theme. ‘Hook a duck’, sandcastle building, sweets and cider in the yurt were just some of the highlights. The Expo was also an opportunity for members to chat on a one-to-one basis with the service partners and bira direct suppliers and provided opportunities for members and suppliers to network.
The Conference and Expo was followed by an awards ceremony in the evening, hosted by
actor, comedian and impressionist Chris Barrie, best known for his roles in BBC series ‘Red Dwarf’ and ‘The Brittas Empire’.
Chris presented the UK Young Retailer of the Year Awards for independent retailers under the age of 35, the Bira Direct Best Suppliers of 2014 Awards and the Community Awards, for those who have performed above and beyond the call of duty for their local community and charitable causes.
The roll call of winners included several housewares names. The Cookshop & Housewares Association (CHA) Young Retailer of the Year was awarded to Ella Clarke, of Louis Potts & Company, a specialist tableware retailer in the East Sussex town of Lewes.
The Bira Direct Best Suppliers of 2014 Awards included accolades for Best Marketing – CHA, which was won by Dexam International; Best Growth – CHA which was collected by RKW and the Supplier of the Year – CHA prize which was scooped by Horwood.
The bira Local Hero Award category had joint winners: Morris Muter of R & L Keenleysides and Simon Price of Arthur Price.
Bira’s national president Bruce McLaren said: “The bira High Street Conference, Expo and Gala Awards Dinner were brilliant and brought together suppliers and members alike. From the great speakers, to the Expo interactive sessions, all who attended would have gone away having learned something new – not only about the independent retail businesses that we all work in, but also about the association that we are all members of and which can do so much for all of us.”