Claire Harper

Pfizer GLocal FSME Summit 2019

16th Oct 2019 • CLAIRE HARPER

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I was delighted to recently deliver a keynote speech for Pfizer. I was asked to open up their GLocal FSME Summit in London. Pfizer is one of the world's premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, discovering, developing and providing over 170 different medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products to help improve the lives of millions of people in the UK and around the world every year. Pfizer's purpose is grounded in their belief that all people deserve to live healthy lives. The event was an opportunity for the Global Pfizer vaccine team to come together to celebrate success and discuss plans for 2020. There was over 60 people attending from all over Europe. Attendees covered disciplines within the Global team, including marketing, medical, regulatory and legal. I was delighted to kick off this meeting and inspire the team helping the audience to see the business from a different perspective. From my retail and consumer experience it is important to get the audience to review what they could do differently in their role and market. I provided stories how non-pharmaceutical businesses put customers at the very heart of their work, sharing insights into gathering and analysing customer data and showcasing how I have personally driven change through using customer insights and innovation. As the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated, it was a great opportunity to share my retail expertise from Argos, Ocado, Sainsburys and Mamas & Papas on how colleagues can challenge themselves to think and do things differently. Feedback was very positive and it was a very engaging and inspiring event.


Keynote speaker for Adobe and Magento Cross Border City Tour

I was delighted to recently deliver a keynote speech for Adobe and Magento as part of their Cross Border City Tour. This was an exclusive event for commerce leaders across the UK. The tour was held at White Rabbit studios in the heart of Shoreditch. This event was sponsored by key suppliers including, Worldpay, Signifyd, DHL and Akeneo. Cross border sales will drive more than 20 percent of online commerce by 2022. This event focused on the transition and experiences from moving from local to global trading. Every market is unique, and brands must tailor their strategy and shopping experiences to meet customer expectations. Best practices were shared for adding new markets to existing digital commerce portfolios. Along with my brand and global experience, cross border merchants and industry experts shared insights on payments, fraud detection, product information localisation, VAT and GST compliance, shipping strategies and how to pull it all together to create a strong and global brand. This was a very successful evening to gain access to cross border expert experiences and professional networking.


Celebrating Success

4th Apr 2019 • CLAIRE HARPER

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I was delighted to attend Blue Diamond Garden Centres annual awards evening on the 19th March at Chateau Impney in the West Midlands with Fermoys and Le Friquet winning the Acorn and Oak Cups for Blue Diamond Garden Centres of the Year. Trelawney and Redfields won the Blue Diamond Restaurant of the Year Awards and Managing Director, Alan Roper was presented with a special award to recognise his impressive and successful 20 years of leadership at Blue Diamond. Over 500 colleagues from 30 centres were joined by suppliers at the prestigious evening where deserving winners were celebrated across many group departments. It was inspiring to be part of a very positive culture with such energy, flair, loyalty together with a very strong work ethic. It is so important to celebrate success and the execution was outstanding. The group increased like for like turnover by 33% to £128m excluding Wyevale acquisitions and East Bridgeford in 2018 and projected sales for 2019 are £170m. To be part of this award winning, customer focused and growing brand is very exciting. When colleagues feel valued, motivated and inspired it makes all the difference. Praise and recognition are essential to an outstanding business. Well done Blue Diamond!


Spun Candy

3rd Mar 2019 • CLAIRE HARPER

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It is very refreshing when you discover new, exciting retail concepts. I was recommended to visit Spun Candy so took my 11 year old daughter and her friend for a treat and booked a 60 minute interactive 'Candy Making Masterclass'. What an experience.

Spun Candy produce marvellous, handmade hard rock candy and confectionery. Since their London launch in 2013 they have developed hundreds of designs and flavours of confectionery. Their branding is on trend and has grown successfully via social media. Their product range is constantly evolving and pushes the boundaries due to changing customer demands and global trends.

Taste is high on their agenda including 100% vegetarian, natural flavours and gelatin, gluten and GM free.

I was struck by the 'retail theatre' from the moment we walked into the candy making retail hub based in trendy Spitalfields. We were offered candy to sample and we were warmly invited to our masterclass with highly energetic and positive Spun colleagues. It was fantastic to learn the art, history and science behind confectionery and experience the live candy theatre and interactive classes in their open plan, avant-garde confectionery kitchens.

With the current doom and gloom of retail this was experiential retail as it should be.


Square Mile Market Think Event

14th Feb 2019 • CLAIRE HARPER

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I was delighted to be invited to deliver a marketing keynote speech this week for Square Mile Research. Square Mile is an independent investment research business that works in partnership with regulated professional financial services firms. They help advisors to develop informed investment recommendations so that, with their support, their clients can make decisions that are right for them. Focusing first and foremost on in-depth, qualitative fund research, they provide tailored support and investment services for financial advisors and institutions.

The afternoon kicked off with a panel of financial advisors discussing asset management marketing followed by a number of industry experts discussing branding through a merger at Aberdeen Standard Investments, digital innovation at Aviva Investors and lessons learnt along the way during a major change project at Schroders. The benefits of influencer relationship marketing was then presented followed by my keynote on building a brand in an alternative way.

I shared my experience working with some of the UK's leading retail brands, including Argos, Ocado, Sainsbury's and Mamas & Papas. I spoke with passion about my own journey from corporate marketer to fledging entrepreneur and shared my valuable learning's gleaned from implementing innovation and cultural change in progressive brands.

It was a very successful event with positive engagement and feedback.

"Thank you for all your efforts in the lead up to yesterday's event. The entire conference went really well, and Claire was absolutely brilliant. She really engaged with the audience, scored a home run on the content and was a great addition to the agenda. I do hope our paths cross again soon". Sophie Salome, Speaker Engagement, Speakers in Partnership.


Welcome to Blue Diamond Garden Centres

14th Feb 2019 • CLAIRE HARPER

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In January 2019 I was appointed as a Non-Executive Director for Blue Diamond Garden Centre Group. Blue Diamond is a very exciting and successful retail business recently acquiring 9 sites from Wyevale. Blue Diamond will soon become the second largest garden centre group in the UK and Channel Islands and is continuing to grow. I flew to Guernsey recently and attended my first Board Meeting. As recently reported in Blue Diamond has bought in total 11 garden centres in 12 months, bringing the the number of garden centres in the group to 30. The initial focus was on East Bridgford which opened in March. The new build achieved £10m sales in 10 months making it number 1 in the group and giving it an annualised turnover of £11.5m. This had been its year 3 target. In May, Blue Diamond bought Orchard Park in Dorset before buying 9 Wyevale garden centres in the Summer. 2019 will be all about the integration of the 9 Wyevale garden centres. Customers are flocking back to the Wyevale centres and the Wyevale colleagues have really taken ownership of their garden centres, they have been given the tools to succeed and they are stepping up to the plate and embracing the positive changes taking place. Significant investment will take place over the next 3 years and Bicester, Nailsworth and Cadbury will be the first to get the Blue Diamond treatment. Priority is currently being given to Bicester. The footprint is being extended with a new customer flow. There will be 3 restaurants themed as a Book Cafe, Eat and Play for Children and the main Cafe theatre restaurant, similar to those at Redfields and East Bridgford. Other exciting features will include a new canopied area that will fill the gap between the garden centre and the concessions building and a new gin distillery making Blue diamond gin. It is a very positive time to be working with the Board and supporting a clear vision and strategy to create a very exciting brand and customer experience.


My Speaking Journey

27th Jul 2016 • CLAIRE HARPER

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The summer holidays have arrived and I have reflected on the first part of this year. I am delighted to be working with Speaking Office, a bespoke management company representing a number of talented individuals with powerful and interesting ideas worth sharing.

My inspirational journey from corporate marketer (Argos, Ocado, Sainsbury's and Mamas & Papas) to fledging entrepreneur (IndiaCoco) is full of valuable learnings gleaned from implementing innovation and cultural change in influential and progressive brands.

This year, I have delivered keynote speeches to a number of strong businesses and organisations including On The Dot, Blackstone, Burberry, British Independent Retail Association, The British Retail Consortium and The Better Wholesaling Summit to name just a few. My keynote speeches are all tailored to the client's brief. Key themes this year have been focused around understanding the customer, effective leadership, digital, delivery and brand innovation and change management.

I joined Argos at the time of a hostile takeover, at a time when the brand was struggling to change and innovate. The learning curve in people management, customer insight and technological change was steep, but it formed the foundations of my passion for taking brands to the next level of success. I thrived under the tutelage of influential mentors and in time used my experience to move on to the next challenge.

At the age of 26 I joined the newly-launched Ocado as Head of Customer Acquisition and was soon promoted to Head of Marketing. At the time online grocery shopping was clunky and ineffective but the potential was enormous and I was delighted to be part of the visionary team that helped build the Ocado brand into the customer-focussed, insightful brand it has become.

As well as helping to create the business and watching it grow, my time at Ocado gave me the knowledge and experience required to truly influence the direction of the business, enabling us to fight off competition, turn an entire concept on its head and create a whole new customer-centric space in the market.

Four years later I was headhunted to join Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King’s new leadership team, with the aim of reinvigorating this flagging brand and make Sainsbury’s great again. By now I had the skills Sainsbury’s needed to adapt their business plans to reflect the ever-changing retail landscape. During my time at Sainsbury’s I successfully launched their multi-channel experience, and consolidated the brand with its customer communications.

With a hunger for a new challenge, I upped sticks and moved to Yorkshire to be the first ever female board director at nursery retailer Mamas & Papas, a strong family business which had moved from wholesale to retail. Tasked with growing the brand in the UK and abroad, I had to build and strengthen a positive culture, and ensure that the business prioritised understanding the customer at the deepest level.

During my time at Mamas & Papas my husband and I welcomed our first daughter Coco into the family, and I faced the familiar challenge of balancing a successful and demanding career with taking care of a newborn. One of the many subjects I give talks about is familiar to many working women - the challenges of “having it all”, and some of the things I learned (and mistakes I made) during my quest for work/life balance.

Our second child India was born in 2011 and this proved to be the catalyst for change that unleashed my inner entrepreneur. In the face of some very appealing job offers from major retailers, I made the determined decision to fulfil a long-held ambition to launch a retail business of my own and took the plunge with both feet.

I launched IndiaCoco in June 2012 from my dining room at home, after spotting a gap in the market for a destination shop which sold original, well-designed and innovative childrenswear, the vast majority of which are designed in the UK.

From running my own successful business and now with a family relocation from Yorkshire to Hertfordshire, I am now doing more corporate speaking events and I am also a senior retail interim and brand consultant.

So, this is the inspiration for the expertise I now share with others - my understanding of online retail as well as ‘bricks and mortar’ shopping. The feedback from events and key clients this year has been very positive so if you’re looking for an inspiring and entrepreneurial speaker, marketing consultant or business mentor, I'd love to hear from you.


Connecting Customers - Better Wholesaling Summit

16th Jul 2016 • CLAIRE HARPER

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Evolving technology. Smarter processes. New profits.

The first ever Better Wholesaling Summit took place on July 13 at The Bond Company in Birmingham.

I was delighted to be a keynote speaker and a member of the panel discussion alongside industry experts from Social Retail Group, Blakemore, Better Wholesaling and Celtech. I was asked to talk about my experience connecting customers and to know your customers better than they know themselves. I have worked with companies such as Argos, Ocado, Sainsburys and Mamas & Papas launching multi channel customer propositions and improving levels of change management, cultural evolution and customer service and communication over the past few years. I have also run my own successful business so I understand the challenges that small businesses face in order to grow their brand and become profitable.

My key messages for understanding customers and embracing change is to 'keep it simple' as brands and people can easily overcomplicate things. Really understand and focus on your customer at all times. They are the DNA and heartbeat of your business and stick to your brand vision and customer values and keep customers on your side. Embrace digital and social landscapes. Don't be afraid to make a mistake and try new things - have fun and create a positive and entrepreneurial place to work.

In summary, a great line up of passionate and experienced speakers and a very informative and inspirational event.

Many thanks again to Better Wholesaling for providing great insight and actionable advice to grocery and foodservice wholesalers. They aim to help the industry improve sell-through and support its customers better by promoting best practice examples from leader wholesalers and suppliers across the foodservice, cash & carry and delivered sectors.


Keynote speaker: BIRA High Street Conference - Creating a Stronger Future Together

I was delighted to be a keynote speaker at the bira High Street Conference in May 2016. The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) is a world class trade association that exceeds its members’ expectations, represents good value and which makes such a difference to its members’ businesses that membership is essential.

The British Independent Retailers Association (bira) is the voice of independent retailers. They are the leading trade association for independent retailers in the UK with the aim to provide first class support, business services and specialist representation to their members. Representing thousands of members across the UK from single retail outlets to small chains, dealers, suppliers, manufacturers and distributors they are strongly committed to championing the independents.

The key theme of the conference was to 'Create a Stronger Future Together' and we all know brands have to continually evolve and change in response to the challenging retail world. In a highly competitive market, independent retailers have to stay one step ahead.

Drawing on my own multi-channel retail experience I shared my own story on why customer service should be at the very heart of any organisation. I have worked for some of the the UK's leading retail brands, including Argos, Ocado, Sainsbury's and Mamas & Papas. Through my inspirational journey from corporate marketer to running my own independent business I was able to share my learnings gleaned from implementing innovation and cultural change in influential and progressive brands. I'm hugely committed and passionate about sharing my expertise with organisations such as bira, whether it's best practice in retail, change management, branding, customer service, coaching or leadership.

The response and feedback from the audience on the day and post conference was extremely positive and some of my key messages such as 'keep it simple', 'customer service is the heartbeat of your brand,' 'create a positive culture,' 'be passionate about what you do' and 'deliver best-in-class service' have been personally communicated back to me via social media on Twitter @claire_harper1 and Linked In. This proves that we all need to embrace social media and be socially engaging. A successful customer experience must be reflected through every touch point of a brand.

In summary we concluded that today's customers are demanding and savvy; not only do they demand an instant response, they expect that interaction needs to be exceptional if their loyalty is to be retained or developed. Using social platforms that can help your businesses build trusted relationships between customers and the brand, is key to retaining competitive advantage.

The conference was a fantastic platform to network, meet like minded individuals and I certainly left feeling motivated and inspired. A very exciting and valuable event for all hard working independent retailers and suppliers. I'm confident by meeting many retailers, suppliers and other guest speakers everyone is fired up to 'Create a Stronger Future Together'.

Thank you to bira for inviting me to be part of your High Street Conference 2016.


The BRC Retail Symposium 2016

17th May 2016 • CLAIRE HARPER

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I was delighted to be invited by the British Retail Consortium to be a keynote speaker and a member of a leading panel discussion at The Retail Symposium at The Brewery in London on the 11 May 2016. This event is firmly established within the retail calendar as the place to hear from retail's leading names sharing expertise and invaluable advice. There was a powerful programme of inspirational speakers who really made you feel energised to explore the future shape of our dynamic and exciting retail industry. The retail landscape is constantly changing. Recent research from KPMG and Nunwood suggests we are in a new era of experience branding and competing in tomorrow's world means embracing best practices today. My own keynote focused on change management and leadership. I am very passionate to articulate why leading from the front, embracing change, developing talent and empowering colleagues is a good and proven recipe for achieving success with a highly motivated, positive and energetic team. I always draw on my own skills and personal experiences running a business but also in my former roles for Mamas & Papas, Sainsburys, Ocado and Argos. After my keynote speech I was delighted to be joined by Fiona Lambert, Former Vice President - Brand Design and Development, ASDA and Hash Ladha, Chief Operating Officer, OASIS & WAREHOUSE. The panel was chaired by Eric Musgrave, Fashion Industry Consultant. We spoke openly and honestly about developing tomorrow's retail leaders and developing the skillsets for future retail employment. The debate and conversation was engaging, positive and generated some great Q&A's from the audience. A hugely valuable day of learning and listening and spending time with dynamic and inspirational retail leaders.


© 2022 Claire Harper