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"Creating Opportunities" Panel Discussion with Neil Daws, from Spirax Sarco, Martin Bundy from John Lewis and Partners and Kevan Blackadder from Cheltenham BID
On Thursday 20th September 2018, one of the talks at the Connect Business Day in Cheltenham was a panel discussion hosted by Debbie Smith from Helix PR. The speakers were: Neil Daws, from Spirax Sarco, Martin Bundy from John Lewis and Kevan Blackadder from Cheltenham BID (Business Improvement District).
The talk was well attended and many of the attendees were keen to hear more on the “Creating Opportunities” theme.
Martin Bundy - manager, John Lewis and Partners, Cheltenham
There was lots of interest in Martin Bundy who is manager of the new John Lewis and Partners store opening in Cheltenham on October 18th 2018.
Martin told us that he has worked for John Lewis and Partners for 18 years, having started out as a 17 year old selling carpets, which is a great advert for recruitment and retention in the company. He also revealed that there are several Cheltenham Spa themes in the store design and architecture. The themes include water, pigeons and festivals & circus. We wait with baited breath to see the design.
In the weeks up to opening there are merchandising specialists from John Lewis and Partners coming from all round the country to set up the displays. There are inductions and training for the 300 partners and 50 people working in the concessions, which Huffkins, who are keeping their Promenade coffee shop too. As well as the partners, there is a management team of 20 who have recently been for training at the JLP training and heritage centre.
Not many people know that in the 1960s John Lewis Partnership had a children’s clothes shop in Cheltenham. Of course, they currently have a Waitrose. With modern technology and knowledge of drive times, they knew that Cheltenham would be a good place for a store and nearly came to Cheltenham in the 1980s but it didn't work out. Then in 2013, the opportunity to take on Beechwood Arcade came along.
With regard to the opportunities that JLP are creating, other than the recruitment of a large team of staff, they are pleased to be working with the community and to be using joined up processes. There will be a “Discovery Room” in store for local community groups and businesses to offer different experiences for shoppers who want to take time out and meet people in an experiential space.
Martin said that one of the main things that other businesses can learn from JLP is to look at the “why” people shop with you. When John Lewis, the founder, realised that between him, his father and his brother took home more pay that the rest of the team together, the partnership idea was formed. So now everyone who works for JLP has a stake in the business.
Kevan Blackadder – Cheltenham BID
Kevan used to be the editor of the Gloucestershire Echo when it was a daily paper. He sees his role at Cheltenham BID as being similar to that at the Echo as it is all about being positive and selling Cheltenham as a place to visit.
Cheltenham BID is all about promoting Cheltenham and has been working closely with Marketing Cheltenham to bring together the retailers and businesses in Cheltenham to improve the communication and offerings.
Before the Cheltenham BID was founded, the managers of the three biggest retailers in town had not spoken to each other. Now they are all on the board of the BID and regularly compare notes. Kevan said that there is a significantly improved feeling of community and communication in Cheltenham as a result of the BID.
He also said that people outside the immediate area are finding out more about what is going on, which is good for the daytime and night-time economy.
He also said that they have a special Christmas light switch on event 24th November 2018, so put the date in your diary! (Keep an eye on www.glos.info for more details!)
With regard to creating opportunities, Kevan spoke about the 550 businesses included in the Cheltenham BID and the co-operation going on between those businesses. Some of the successful events include Cheltenham Cocktail week, Cheltenham Beauty Week and Light up Cheltenham. Also, with businesses working together it helps them to keep their minds open and explore opportunities.
Neil Daws – Managing Director, Spirax Sarco
Neil Daws is proud to have worked for Spirax Sarco for 40 years, having started as an apprentice. He has recently been made Managing Director of the firm that employs 1,000 staff in Cheltenham. He asked the room if anyone knew what they do and a couple of people put their hands up. The answer is very specific engineering items but in fact, 35% of the business comes from selling clients items and processes they didn't know they needed. It comes from a full understanding of the clients' needs and possibilities so when a salesperson walks the production line they can see opportunities. Spirax Sarco is a large company listed on the stock exchange with a worldwide client base.
85% of what is made in Cheltenham is exported so one of the main advantages of being based in Cheltenham is the good connections to ports and airports.
When asked about how Spirax Sarco create opportunities in Cheltenham, Neil discussed the requirement to balance between being a global and local company. Many of the subcontractors are local and Spirax Sarco have good connections with local schools and universities. They are particularly keen on ecouraging young people in the STEM subjects and work hard to encourage women into the engineering industry. This year the graduate intake will be 50% women.
One of the main opportunities that Spirax Sarco create is by not having many system direct competitors, so they can supply products that others can not. They are also more global than other competitors so, for example, when Nestle ask for help, Spirax Sarco know they are well set up to help globally with the 440 Nestle factories.
Debbie Smith from Helix PR lead a fascinating panel and everyone in attendance learned a significant amount about opportunities in Cheltenham.
For more details about next year's Connect Business event please go to www.connectbusiness.org.uk on the link below.
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