Gifts Today magazine

bira conference to focus on future of retail

From high street guru Mary Portas to expert alumnus Andrew Mcmillan, bira's annual High Street Conference promises to explore the future of the UK high street

On May 13 the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) will present an inspiring speaker programme combining leaders from across the retail sphere from high street Guru Mary Portas, to Andrew McMillan, an expert alumnus from one of the leading retailers in the UK, to explore the future of the high street at the bira High Street Conference at.

Incoming bira President and independent retailer Cliff Elliott said: “Independent retailers have a crucial part to play in the survival of our high streets, we can no longer sit back and wait for something to happen. Embracing and implementing change and continuing to offer a service like no other will all help to future-proof our businesses and our high streets. We are thrilled to have such a high calibre of speakers this year; speakers who will leave our delegates inspired, motivated and excited for the future.”

Mary Portas
Mary, newly-published author of memoir “Shop Girl”, will examine the challenges independent retailers face as well as the opportunities they can embrace as the bira High Street Conference investigates the future of retailing. Portas’ goal in recent years has been to bring economic and community life back to our high streets, making them desirable destinations to enjoy and visit. She will talk delegates through her vision and the steps she has taken with the Government to secure our high streets for the future.

Mary Portas commented: “We’ll never have back the high streets of old, nor should we, but with creative re-imagination, policy change from Government and a society who knows the value of their high street, I am hopeful for the high street of our future.”

Andrew McMillan
Recognised as an expert in customer service from his 20 year career with the John Lewis Partnership will bring a wealth of experience to bira’s High Street Conference. Andrew’s engaging and motivational session will focus on the customer experience and viewing employees as an asset rather than a cost and how this will contribute to the survival of independents on our high streets.

Joan Woulfe
Joan, of Cooking Marvellous will supply this year’s Retailer Address, sharing her experiences and the secrets to her success that has led to growing her business from a single retail outlet in Shrewsbury to exporting to customers in 90 countries. That success resulted in her winning the Queen’s Award for International Trade for outstanding overseas sales growth over the last three years in 2014 and she will demonstrate how keeping abreast of new technologies can lead to future-proofing your business.

David Hibbert- Stax
Stax Trade Centres, one of the UK’s biggest non-food wholesalers, has been supplying independent retailers for over 30 years; offering nationwide delivery, five Cash & Carry outlets and a £20 million + stock holding across 40,000 lines. As the man at the joint helm of the company, David Hibbert has a wealth of expertise in the wants and needs of customers in the retail sector.

Alexis Conran- BBC 3’s The Real Hustle
Event host Alexis Conran from BBC 3’s ‘The Real Hustle’ will be on hand to entertain with close-up insight into the world of tricks and scams and will guide delegates through the day's programme.

Tony Hawks- TV and Radio Comedian
TV and radio comedian Tony Hawks, appearing on Have I Got News For You and They Think It’s All Over, will present the bira Gala Awards Dinner on the evening of bira’s High Street Conference. The Awards will celebrate independent retailers and suppliers who have done excellent work in the last year. Evening entertainment will be provided by one of the UK’s finest tribute bands ‘The Rollin’ Clones’, providing a chance to see, close up, Alex Larke, the 35-year-old Jagger impersonator who will represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest as one half of double-act, Electro Velvet.

The event will be brought to life by an exciting circus theme, beginning with an informal dinner the night before the conference on Tuesday 12 May, featuring a Buffalo Bill’s themed barbeque where guests will be invited to dress up in their best western attire to relax with other delegates.

The theme will continue at the main conference on Wednesday 13 May where a ringmaster and other circus performers will entertain delegates as they work their way around the interactive Expo, seeing sponsors from across the industry host themed activities on their stands. 

bira has seen fantastic support from its partners who also champion the independents working to keep the high streets alive. The conference sponsors so far include; bira direct, Stax, L G Harris, bira publishing, DKB Household, Portmeirion Group, Creative Tops, Group SEB, Drapers, Toolbank, EPE International, Culpitt, bira legal, Fire Safety Services, Sika Everbuild, bira insurance, bira pensions, Global Payments, bira bank, Oxford Summer School, bira training, Text Local, Euroshowers, Retail Trust and Rainy Day Trust.

The conference will take place on Wednesday 13 May 2015 at Chesford Grange Hotel in Warwickshire. 

Visit for more information and to book places.

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