‘Converting your customers into fans’ was the theme of the live streamed event, with one speaker stressing the importance of customer service and another telling bricks and mortar retailers that in the fast-changing world they had to “play a different game” to compete. The audience also heard how to employ an apprentice to boost their business.
The AGM saw the chairmanship of The GA pass to toy supplier Ravensden’s Michael Papé for the next two years. Independent retail advisor Henri Davis was installed as vice-chairman.
Outgoing chairman Andrew Illingworth, of Widdop Bingham – who becomes deputy chairman – said that although the economy was clearly improving “costs have risen and many companies are still finding business tough as everyone is watching every penny they spend”.
“In the case of some of our smaller members our subscription goes by the wayside when it is competing with their insurance bill or other essential business expenses. Over 50% of members lost are for financial reasons. In view of this we are very pleased that we have still managed to achieve high retention rates in 2013, at 89 per cent for suppliers and 76 per cent for retailers.”
During last year and the first few months of 2014, the GA has welcomed 118 new members.
Michael Papé thanked Andrew Illingworth for “being such a devoted chairman” and said that as a fellow custodian of a family business he knew the pressures he had faced. “At times you can feel pulled in all directions”. Yet he had devoted many hours to the national committee, fellow members and The GA as a whole while still managing to be involved with his local business community as well.
As a token of The GA’s appreciation for his hard work as chairman, Michael presented car enthusiast Andrew with a special Bentley-inspired weather vane.
The new chairman said that if he had to sum-up his vision for the future of The GA in a few words, they would be Community, Collaboration and Reputation.
“Essentially, by members working together and sharing knowledge, information and best practice, in the long run it can only lead to benefits for both our supplier and retailer members,
“Often we have common problems, and I can pretty much guarantee you as a company, if you are facing a problem, or need some specific advice, someone within The GA community will have been there before you and be able to assist. Within this room and The GA there is a vast breadth of experience and knowledge, so please don’t be afraid to use it.”
Michael added that it was The GA’s aim to enhance the valuable industry specific information it sent to the community and “seal our position as the leading authority within the gift and home sector”.
The audience saw David Simons present The Elkan Simons Award – in memory of his father, who founded The GA – to Parlane International managing director Mike Burgess.