IHA Centenary Congress London 2009

IHA Centenary Congress London 2009

Congress Patron, The Princess Royal, opened the event with a well-prepared talk on the hardware industry in the UK and the rest of Europe.

Mark Berrisford-Smith a senior economist with HSBC was the first speaker, presenting an economic summary of the UK and the rest of the world. He considered the worst was over, but said the economic recovery would take many years – and some things would never be the same again.

The next speaker was Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium. The BRC represents 80% of the British retail sector. Stephen highlighted that sales in the retail sector in the UK between 1995 and 2007 had increased 70%, whilst the number of enterprises had reduced by 20%. In the future, he said consumers would require convenience, quality and simplicity. Ethics will also become more important and there will be a demand for transparency. Virtually all purchases will be influenced by the internet, whether it be:


  • On-line research.
  • Purchasing.
  • Delivery.
  • Consumer reviews.The following speaker was Peter Cullun, ceo and major shareholder of Towergate, a $5.6 billion Insurance Broking and Underwriting business. Some of his pearls of wisdom were: “Make sure your distribution gets to the end user…Re-invent the model every three years…Hire the best people possible…Emphasise cost control…and…Be customer centric”. Ben Phillips was next up. He runs a group of 21 Cookware stores, operating as Steamer Trading, across Southern England. He puts its continued success down to concentrating on what customers expect: high levels of customer service and good value, which is not the same thing as low prices. Today’s customer, he says, wants to be delighted, entertained and tempted.

    Ben said the guiding principals for Steamer Trading are:

  • Location and size do matter.
  • The right product.
  • Good people who believe retailing is a career, not a job.
  • Stay within your core product range.
  • Work well with your suppliers, it should be a partnership.Day two of the Congress saw our first speaker, Matt Sexton of B&Q, speak about the global and social demands of retailing. He stated that if everyone on earth lived as they do in the UK it would require 3.1 planets to be sustainable. Interestingly, the USA came out at 5.3 and China 0.9. TOOLBANK is a large supply and distribution company of hand, power and garden tools, ladders, decorating and general hardware. They stock some 30,000 products over 270 brand manufacturers, with a value of $100 million of stock. They struck me as being a combination of ITW Proline and Danks or Mitre 10.


The talk by Simon Bicknell and Tim Strong gave an interesting insight into how you can increase sales by up to 30% by using your suppliers’ total inventory. They produce a 750 page, laminated book to be used in store at a kiosk. This allows the customer to view many more products than the store could possibly stock, which in turn creates special orders. They have now taken this concept on-line.

Our next speaker was Margaret Gooch of CALOR GAS. Margaret’s final words of wisdom were: “Hire for attitude and train for skill”.

Billed as a motivation speaker, Phillip Hesketh started his presentation by stating he was not going to motivate anyone – as people motivate themselves! Phillip suggested that people are only interested in themselves, their problems and their desires. And if you want their full attention, you need to remember that.

He also said: “People don’t care what you think unless they think you care.” He also claimed that you don’t persuade people, you influence them. Finally, he reminded us all that our reputation as a storekeeper is the experience of our customers, minus their expectations. I’d highly recommend his book Life is a Game: Beat the Odds.

The NRHA is hosting the 2011 IHA Congress in Washington DC from the 13-15 July 2011, followed by the HRHA Conference 16-17 July. You missed a great Congress in London, don’t miss this one! Go to www.iha2011.com

I am pleased to report that I was elected to the Managing Committee of IHA, replacing Mark Fahey who stood down last year. And, to end this report, I want to say that Loi and I were proud to represent Australia and thoroughly enjoyed the Centenary Congress.