Despite being the editor of Retailer Therapy, BT Expedite and BT Fresca’s monthly magazine, I’ve never managed to wangle an invite to the BT Expedite Client Conference - which always gave it an aura of exclusivity and mystique. This year I finally persuaded them to let me in and, suitably shaved, suited and booted, I made my way to Stratford-upon-Avon and went undercover at the 6th annual client conference.
Officially I was there to cover some of the breakout sessions with a view to learning a bit more and getting material for future articles. But I also wanted to nose about and find out what attracts clients to the event.
Two things impressed me most:
- 1. The openness and willingness of the retailers to share experiences with one another
- 2. The energy and enthusiasm - and stamina - of everyone involved
When I write about retail, it’s often set in a context of bitter competition, cutthroat marketplace and manoeuvring for any and every advantage. But the retail technology crowd seem more like a band of brothers. They talk about systems updates and rollouts like Vietnam vets comparing campaigns - and those that have seen action are genuinely interested in helping fresher-faced recruits learn from their experiences.
So there was a real “all for one and one for all” atmosphere at the conference. This was especially prevalent during the breaks and over lunch, when people could relax and get down to the nitty gritty. Delegates clearly got as much out of talking with one another as they did from the sessions with suppliers.
I took in five sessions - the pains and gains of implementing multichannel as experienced by Halfords and Clarks, Build-a-Bear’s Audit and Operations Management (AOM) strategy, the fantastically titled, “Dude, where’s my stock” (I’ll be nicking that one) about tracking the supply chain, moving towards SOA with Mothercare and finally an assisted selling workshop boiled down to a short presentation and rather spiky Q&A session.
I’ll be writing about all of these for the next Retailer Therapy.
Unfortunately my new shoes meant I couldn’t do quite as much dashing about as I had planned - I tended to shuffle from session to session - but even if I had been dressed as an Olympic Athlete and carried on Usain Bolt’s back, I still couldn’t keep up. The levels of energy that the delegates - and presenters - showed were amazing.
I worked Saturdays on the deli at Tesco for years so I can pretend I know how hard retail is. But as I sat through my fourth 45-minute session (on Service Oriented Architecture), I’ll admit that I started to flag. Everyone else though was still alert, involved, asking questions and debating answers. This was real meaty stuff and they couldn’t get enough of it. And most of them had been there the day before as well!
At 5pm, I hobbled pathetically out to my taxi for the train back to London feeling like a washed out rag. Behind me everyone was just beginning to warm up for the evening session of drinks, dinner and party (and possibly more drinks). The band must have just started tuning up as I was buying plasters at Marylebone station - I’m clearly going to have to start training for next year if I want to cut it with the real retailers…
Paul Mitchell, editor, Retailer Therapy www.btretailertherapy.com
We’re delighted that Robin Coles has joined us yesterday as our new Director of Consulting for Supply Chain Solutions. He will report to Richard Dodd, chief operating officer at BT Expedite.
This is an important new role in our organisation which will see Robin provide strategic direction for the BT Expedite’s supply chain solutions as well as supporting the sales team during the pre-sale process. Robin will lead a team of 5.
Our supply Chain solutions are an integral part of our company’s offerings. For Retailers to be able to compete in today’s markets they need to be able to keep category and store plans integrated. Competitor activity and changing trends mean that they need to able to change plans swiftly. BT Expedite provides the necessary tools for faster, more cost effective and efficient supply chain management. We currently has 19 customers who are using the Mercatus supply chain solution. These include Aurora Fashions, Monsoon/Accessorize and Austin Reed Group.
Robin, from Northamptonshire, has more than 25 years experience of providing retail solutions to major clients including House of Fraser, Monsoon and Aurora Fashions. His most recent role was Director of Retail Systems at software vendor Itim Limited where he had overall responsibility for the company’s emerging retail systems. Prior to this he was Business Development Manager at Prologic PLC looking after marketing, consulting and new business sales.
Robin will be a familiar face to many both throughout the industry and at BT as he previously worked for NSB Retail Systems when its UK operations were acquired by BT in 2003. BT Expedite was formed as a result of the acquisition.
Robin says: “I am looking forward to working once again with the many talented people at BT Expedite and ensuring that our merchandising solutions continue to serve the needs of existing and future customers in this fast moving industry. “
Robin is married with two teenage daughters and is an avid Chelsea supporter.