Positive spirits at Lakeland Forum despite challenging times.
It was standing room only at BHETA’s networking forum on November 1st as it welcomed Samm Swain, Lakeland’s Buying and Merchandising Director, Kelly Whitwick, UK Retail lead at GfK, Jeff Moody from bira and Chris Johnson from logistics company, Loadie.
Housewares sector director Will Jones opened the forum with a reminder to members to make the most of several current BHETA opportunities. These included the export trade mission to Romania, grant availability for exhibiting members at both Ambiente and the International Housewares Show and the publication of the latest batch of category-specific EPOS data courtesy of the BHETA GfK Quarterly POS Index. Will also reiterated the importance of ensuring that member product data was up to date on the BHETA Retailer Zone as not only did this now correlate with the GfK data, but it was also being successfully promoted to buyers; the latest BHETA Retailer Zone mailing achieving a 29% open rate as retailers search for new products and suppliers.
Chris Johnson was eloquent on the advantages of Loadie, his mobile and online logistics platform. This new service which adapts B2C concepts familiar from Uber to the B2B market, makes the most of geolocation technology to enable suppliers to post fully trackable transport requirements at no cost and at any time and available drivers to pick up and deliver for a pre- agreed charge, often avoiding the implications of a return journey with an empty vehicle. The potential for flexibility – especially for deliveries such as samples – was not lost on an enthusiastic audience.
Equally positive was a presentation from Jeff Moody of bira. He outlined its lobbying activities on business rates and the sale of knives and corrosive substances and its stand on seeking a fair and level playing field for High Street retail. He also presented bira direct, the association’s programme of services geared to making independent retail easier and more profitable.
Kelly Whitwick of GfK was also able to demonstrate the opportunities in amongst the challenges in the current retail market. Pointing out how pessimistic the British are versus other nations, she explained that fears about the macro economic situation are holding consumers back despite a relatively positive position on personal ability to spend. Having outlined these findings from GfK’s consumer confidence survey, she then went on to detail some of the clear trends from the most recent EPOS data. These are the importance of comfort and simplicity in terms of products most purchased, the shift to lower volumes but higher price points and, notwithstanding the continually growing importance of convenience in purchase method, an apparent decline in price comparison as ‘tailored for you’ online offers become more prevalent.
Samm Swain of the ever-popular Lakeland outlined the retailer’s Cumbrian history, its hugely positive and loyal customer base and its current split of sales between its website (28%), its catalogues (8%) and its retail stores (64%). The secret of Lakeland’s long-held position as the largest kitchenware specialist, explained Samm, is trust; something the company promotes and sustains through commitment to its test kitchen and the involvement of its customer ambassador in both product selection and returns. She also detailed the Lakeland customer profile to illustrate the opportunities for suppliers, both branded and own label.
The forum was followed by another meeting of the increasingly popular BHETA Surgery, a session where members can pre-submit business questions to the BHETA housewares committee for discussion. In the second Surgery of its kind, more than a dozen questions were submitted stimulating as much discussion of industry issues as about individual queries.
Commenting on the day, BHETA’s housewares sector director, Will Jones said, “Everyone knows that 2018 has presented many challenges, but this BHETA forum proved an entirely positive event, full of really positive ideas, campaigns, commentary and opportunities. It was a sell-out crowd and just goes to show what a contribution to business well-being in this sector BHETA now makes.”
For information about future BHETA events, contact the BHETA Member Services Team on 0121 237 1130.