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Stuart O'Brien


Industry Spotlight: Menswear of choice

Dobell Menswear are the smart man’s choice for high quality, stylish and affordable, men’s formalwear and smartwear.

With over 14 years of expertise in tuxedos, business suits and wedding suits, Dobell give British men access to the thousands of affordable, high grade tailoring, shirts, blazers, shoes, jackets and accessories, which can be delivered to your home or office, within 24 hours.

If you’ve got an important meeting that requires you to impress, an invitation to a corporate black tie event,  or a friend’s wedding to suit up for, check out the latest menswear collection here, and  men’s style experts Dobell, will transform your wardrobe, and your image; for less.


Dragon provides national support for small businesses

Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis is hosting a national small business event in support of retailers.

Organised by the retail entrepreneur and his team at Ryman Stationary, the event aims to help smaller businesses come to terms with the changing business world.

It is run by the same team who run the Small Business Sunday campaign, which gives a boost in business coverage to those who tweet Mr Paphitis with the hashtag #SBS.

Each Monday he shares six favourites, with the intention of boosting social media coverage and encouraging collaboration between retail professionals.

“I won my #SBS award from Theo in 2013 and it was a great boost to my Twitter following,” said Tina Fotherby, who is speaking at this year’s #SBS conference, “As well as being invited to the conference, all #SBS winners join a Facebook group where support and advice is exchanged.”

Ms Fotherby is to give advice to business owners on how they can raise their profile, and the benefits of PR and marketing, as well as holding workshops for other retailers.

“I am very much looking forward to meeting the other business owners and getting to know the community as a whole.”


Amazon tackles Trump with the ‘full extent’ of its resources

A leaked staff email from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has revealed the online giant is standing to oppose the United States Government following President Donald Trump’s controversial ‘Muslim ban’.

Talking to Amazon employees in a mass email, Mr Bezos has revealed that Amazon are looking into legal options as he wants to “make our opposition clear”.

The ban in question is an executive order from the recently inaugurated President Trump, barring citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries access to the USA for 90 days.

Amazon’s email has been leaked to various sources, including via Buzzfeed’s John Paczkowski on Twitter.

Describing the United States as “a nation of immigrants”, the Amazon chief believes the mix of cultures and backgrounds is “a distinct competitive advantage for our country – one we should not weaken.”

“To our employees in the US and around the world who may be directly affected by this order,” he continued, “I want you to know that the full extent of Amazon’s resources are behind you.”

With protests supporting and opposing the order, the ban has sparked a reaction worldwide, and while Amazon isn’t the first to comment, it is much more direct than many other statements.

Other responses have included a statement from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who announced that he was “concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders.”

The news comes just as British citizens issued a petition banning Mr Trump from state visits, explaining that while he should be allowed to visit the country, “he should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”

The petition has reached nearly 2 million signatures.

An opposing petition that “does not believe that people that appose our point of view should be gagged”, is also swiftly gaining popularity with the British public, having surpassed a quarter of a million signatures

Both petitions are expected to be discussed in Parliament on Monday, February 20.


‘Location, location, location’ drives customer loyalty, says TCC

Retail marketer TCC has released figures showing location is more important than any other factor when choosing where to shop.

The UK Shopper Loyalty Study examines a number of key variables to determine what drives customer loyalty, and revealed that nearly 50% would choose a shop based on its location compared to other options.

The second highest factor, with 40%, was the range of products available, with low prices ranking last in priorities.

Location doesn’t just include geographic positions to your home on work, but also includes location of products within a store, and a familiar layout.

The study shows that the two largest complaints a CEO will receive regard the delisting of a product, and the reorganisation of a shop’s layout.

“The key is reaching people in the moments that matter, and that depends on their mindset, which is usually driven by their environment,” said Theo Theodorou, GM of xAd EMEA, whose research supported TCC’s study, “in order to stand out and drive footfall, grocery stores need to wake up to the power of location marketing.”

xAd’s research showed that over half of shoppers make purchasing decisions either immediately or within an hour of researching a product.

“By utilising location, every brand experience is contextual and consistent,” he continued, “After all – why would I want an ad for one supermarket miles away if there is one offering similar products around the corner?”

Primark Guru

How Primark has solved the challenge of delivering compliance in store design across continents

In the last four years alone Primark, the fashion retailer, has opened 86 stores, expanding into 11 countries in 7 new territories, creating a working day for the company of 14 hours or more. The expansion, while exciting for the business, has created challenges in store design specification and data management with disparate information systems used by many external parties across the globe.

To solve these issues ‘Primark Guru’ has been created. It is a worldwide specification portal that facilitates design compliance for Primark’s brand across all its stores. It is a simple, singular system containing the latest store design Specifications and Standards which can be accessed by internal and external stakeholders wherever they are located.

Primark Guru was jointly developed, delivered and populated by the internal store development team at Primark together with Milton Keynes based architects practice, 3d Architects Ltd and leading property portal specialist Elecosoft ICON.

Primark’s Store Development Design Manager Quentin Bossom explains,

“With Primark expanding throughout Europe and now into the USA, we realised it was imperative that information on new store development initiatives be shared promptly and smartly. We also needed our diverse and dispersed supply chain to be able to access the latest standards being designed and agreed in the UK.”

The Challenge : Architectural Standards

As a longstanding partner in the delivery of stores in the UK, France and Spain over the last 12 years, 3d Architects was already helping to maintain the front of house architectural standards on behalf of Primark and the whole supply chain.

However with the increasing number of store openings and stakeholders the process was becoming unwieldy, as Sarah Davis, 3d Architect’s Associate Director explains,

“3d Architects had been maintaining Primark’s front of house architectural CAD standards for over 12 years. We worked alongside other stakeholders all using a number of unconnected systems containing individual elements of the specification details required for the fitout of new and refurbished stores.

The challenge was to create a single system – a ‘go to’ location for information, accessible by all, that was terminology free and easy to use. We approached ICON to help us develop the Primark portal.

 Primark Guru Homepage

The Results

Over an 18 month period the three parties developed and improved the system, creating a bespoke portal tailored to Primark’s internal processes. Primark also contributed ideas for new features such as a store fitout Specification Generator.

The portal has been enthusiastically adopted by Primark’s internal development teams and external supply chain. As Bossom finishes, “We now have a cloud-based system in place which manages all our Specifications and Standards and most importantly notifies our supply chain when changes occur. We have over 400 registered users with 450 individual login each week. This is higher than most of Icon’s other retail clients and is testament to the value of the information contained in the system.


If you would like to find out more about how 3d Architects can help you set up a Specs and Standards portal to ensure design compliance across your stores, please get in touch with Sarah Davis on 01908 325230.

Venue - Total Security Summit

Experience, Exhibition and Extinction are the top topics for the Retail Shopfitting Summit

The world of retail is facing turbulent times this coming year, between the shifting political landscapes and an increasingly digital world.

2017 is expected to be full of surprise and uncertainties, and the Retail Shopfitting Summit is positioned to help your prepare for the unexpected.

Taking place at the Radisson Blu HotelLondon Stansted, the event allows you to meet with industry professionals to share, connect and debate at highly-targeted one-to-one meetings, encouraging collaboration between professionals and suppliers for current and future business projects.


Out of fears that consumers crave a more personal connection to brands, creative director for the ARNO Group, Vejay Vyas, will be facing the fearless approach retailers must deal with as they’re delivered the ultimatum: evolve or become extinct.

Managing risk, assessing and reducing costs and improving efficiency is vital to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive environment like retail. Integrating and implementing security solutions into an organisation’s framework is the first step in creating value, according to management director of Umbrella Design, Mark Fanthorpe. He hopes to identify how value is created through people, process and technology.

Another seminar to expect will be presented by Karl McKeever, founder and managing director of Visual Thinking, who will be explaining how retailers can maximise their store experience through visual merchandising and a ‘buying to sell’ process. Emphasising consistency and sustaining performance, he’ll explain how a distinctive identity matters now more than ever.


All this and more will be expected at the two day event between February 6 & 7

For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter


Industry Spotlight: Happen to help

Happen is a global innovation agency helping brands to innovate by exposing real consumer frustrations and acting upon them with pragmatic and commercially viable solutions.

For example, when wanted to improve its online service, it turned to Happen. Happen found a strong emotional link between bruised groceries and customers’ perception of themselves as providers; people expected groceries to be chosen with the same care that they would take to choose them. This deep impact on its customers’ lives pushed Tesco to rejuvenate its delivery and online services- including the ‘freshly clicked’ option, taking every opportunity to show the care it puts into fulfilling orders.

Forum News Networking article image

Forum Insight: 7 effective ways to feel the fear and network anyway

If you’re shy, don’t think that successful networking is out of the question. Molly Dyson offers top tips for the less outgoing.

While working with Forum Events we’ve heard from many industry members that their job can be extremely isolating, especially if your position is the only one of its kind at your company. That’s where strategic networking comes into play, but it’s not always easy to get past your fears and meet new people. Here are our top tips to tackle trepidation and go head on into a successful networking event.

1 Set a goal

What are you hoping to achieve by networking? Are you in need of a support group of other, similar employees that you can turn to with questions? Maybe you’re looking for a new job and want to get to know people who might know of available positions. Or perhaps you’re just on the hunt for new contacts. Whatever your goal, have it firmly in your mind so you can be more strategic in your approach.

2 Find the right event or group

Once you have a goal in mind you can be more selective with which events you attend. If you’re looking for suppliers, face-to-face events such as the Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit are the place to be. Want to meet like-minded individuals? Join local and national networks to give you the chance to interact with a variety of different people from different backgrounds.

3 Remember you’re not alone

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re probably not the only shy person in the room. Whether it’s your first or fifth networking event, look around the room and spot your fellow wallflowers – they’ll be the first people to target.

4 Jump in feet first

When you’re at the event, try not to spend too much time waiting for somebody else to strike up a conversation. When you’ve spotted the other shy ones in the room, approach them and introduce yourself – you can even make a joke of the fact that you’re there alone. Sometimes it pays off to step out of your comfort zone and make the first effort.

5 Have an elevator pitch ready

Prepare a quick statement that tells others who you are, what you do and what you’re passionate about. This should be no longer than 30 seconds, but preferably less – it doesn’t need to be the story of your life. You just want to give people a taster of who you are so they’re intrigued enough to ask more questions and continue the conversation.

6 Keep up appearances

Your tone of voice and body language make up 93% of a person’s impression of you. So try to maintain an open and positive stance with a welcoming smile on your face, and don’t use negative language. You have to find the right balance of confidence and humility – nobody likes a braggart, but you do have to be able to tote your own successes if you want to maintain professional relationships with the people you meet.

7 Have fun

Need we say more? Get out there and enjoy yourself!

Guest Blog: Andy Burton: The rise of the serial returner

Andy Burton is CEO at Tryzens Group. Since 2004, Tryzens has worked as an independent expert to Plan, Build, Run and Enhance eCommerce solutions in order to optimise retail performance. Andy has over 30 years of leadership experience in technology and IT organisations, having held CEO roles at Content Technologies, Centennial Software and Fasthosts.


With 68% of online consumers stating that they would be willing to provide their personal measurements to retailers to ensure the ‘right fit first time’ when purchasing clothes, fashion/apparel retailers have an ideal opportunity to take action to enhance their online experience and help defeat the growing financial impact of returns.

The lack of any sizing standards is at the heart of the problem where consumer confusion over the market’s variability in size and fit by brands is directly contributing to the rise of the ‘Serial Returner’, which in turn is impacting profitability.

The increasing consumer expectation for free delivery and returns is effectively fuelling potentially damaging buying behaviours such as wardrobing (wear once and return), and the ordering of multiple sizes to then return the sizes not needed. These behaviours materially impact operating costs in checking and restocking, increases the risk of wastage and directly reduces sales revenue.

Tackling this is a major undertaking, as clothing is a very personal purchase; style, colour, texture, fit and size all must be conveyed online through good photography and accurate data. However, the solution must not create too much friction in the customers’ online experience as this will reduce their engagement and sales conversion. With an average cost of handling returns at £15 per order returned, it is clearly a cost for retailers to mitigate, especially when return rates can exceed 50% of orders in some online businesses.

Whilst there are far too many challenges in tying to migrate to a universal size guide, the problem can be tackled from a different perspective, one that leverages the capability of technology to personalise a consumer experience. For example, this phenomenon of serial returners could be reduced or eradicated by improving the shopping experience and the outcome for the consumer in sending the right size first time.  There are two big ‘if’s’:

1: If retailers explore the notion of accessing a consumers’ personal size/measurement data as a ‘service’ (that any online retailer could securely access) when a consumer browses their site, and, 2: if retailers maps their products to actual measurements (whilst retaining their labelling scheme). In such an environment it is impossible that a Product Listing Page (or search results) could present products that would accurately fit the consumer. If the retailer also overlaid current stock availability into the search you could further improve the efficiency and customer experience presenting items first of all that are available in stock!

Recent research conducted by eCommerce specialist Tryzens revealed that if a retailer could present a PLP that was already checked against size and stock availability so that the consumer only saw what was available, the benefits of avoiding wasted searches and a simplified shopping experience appealed to 80% of the participants.

The serial returner issue around clothing is significant above all other retail verticals and accurate size is a key contributor.  As such, the issue needs to be redressed by being able to translate a consumer’s personal measurements into any retailer’s specific labelling to ensure the correct size can be purchased. Consumers want to be confident that they will receive goods that fit correctly, first time. Getting this right can positively influence consumer behaviour, and therefore has the capacity to materially reduce the significant cost burden facing retailers whilst improving customer experience.