Q&A with Ben Dreyer of Boden

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“Boden just isn’t excellent however we are attempting to do the appropriate factor – not speaking about sustainability is a much bigger drawback”

Ben Dreyer

Ben Dreyer, Boden’s Technique, Sustainability and Operations Director, has been with the clothes retailer – which sells primarily on-line, via mail order and catalogue – for over 25 years. He has helped develop the enterprise from a £10 million to £350 million firm.

This yr’s IRX & eDX – going down on twenty fourth & twenty fifth Could on the Nationwide Exhibition Centre in Birmingham – shall be Ben’s first. He shall be on stage a few instances. There’s a hearth chat titled Rising from a small to medium-sized enterprise whereas staying true to your values. And he may even seem on a panel session, The acutely aware client: encouraging customers to make knowledgeable decisions.

Right here, Ben shares some insights he shall be discussing on the occasion. The next interview has been edited for size and readability.

Q: You may have been with Boden since February 1998 – what have been the largest successes?

Once I joined, Boden was a £10 million firm rising at 60% yearly. Retaining the entire thing collectively was like holding wild horses. We solely began producing revenue once we reached medium-sized firm standing. At that time, you possibly can start to make longer-term selections.

Probably the most important success is that we now have saved our give attention to a core buyer. As we now have entered different markets, we now have tried to seek out that very same buyer in Germany and the US, now our largest market. This has decreased the complexity of the enterprise – one buyer, one vary, in artistic remedy.

Q: In gentle of the above, what recommendation would you give to retailers trying to develop into new markets abroad?

In my 25 years at Boden, I’ve learnt to not complicate issues unnecessarily. For instance, pondering “we are able to get a couple of gross sales right here or there” may be tempting as a enterprise grows. However instantly, you’ve a fancy mannequin, and in case you are not cautious, you might be spending a number of additional time making IT, accounting, and the authorized facet all work. As an alternative, you need to give attention to making beautiful garments and promoting them to loyal clients.

At Boden, we went for the 2 largest mail-order markets. The key is to not attempt to go into a number of markets in a number of channels. It’s tempting to suppose: “We’ll do some on-line, some marketplaces, and a few outlets.” Hold the mannequin easy – that’s the first advice. Moreover, if you wish to go international, discover appropriate companions to assist with IT, logistics, and different features.

Q: How lengthy has Boden been centered on bettering sustainability?

When Johnnie Boden, who based the corporate in 1991, interviewed me, he was already speaking about designing garments that might be worn repeatedly. That set the tone for me 25 years in the past. It’s nice to listen to that oldsters are passing on their Mini Boden kids’s put on to others of their prolonged household and mates. As a result of we’re all leaving a footprint with all the things we do – whether or not it’s sending an electronic mail or logging on to a Zoom name. So you probably have one shirt you put on 100 instances and one other simply ten instances, it’s clear which one it’s best to go for.

At Boden, we now have launched a Care: Restore: Rewear scheme that’s standard. A woman not too long ago introduced in a coat she purchased 19 years in the past. We repaired the liner. Now, hopefully, she will put on it for an additional 19 years. Providing high quality and worth is on the core of what we do. 

Q: How would you assess Boden’s sustainability efforts at present?

Our driver has all the time been attempting to do the appropriate factor in whichever space we’re working. Whether or not it’s taking care of the individuals who make our garments, the materials we’re sourcing or attempting to cut back our carbon footprint. Even again within the 2000s, we had been investing in programmes to guard the Amazon rainforest. Extra not too long ago we now have coated our Leicester warehouse in photo voltaic panels and decreased our Scope 1 and a pair of footprint by 60%.

However till 4 years in the past, we weren’t speaking about this, as a result of we had been afraid of being accused of greenwashing.

Boden just isn’t excellent, however the firm is attempting to do the appropriate factor. However not speaking about it’s a greater drawback. Some retailers have beneath 1% of their vary constituted of sustainable cloth, however in the event you have a look at their web site, you’d suppose it was 99%. At IRX, I’ll talk about the short sustainability wins achieved at Boden. Firstly, by speaking about it, you will get the ball rolling and share successes and challenges. 

Q: Ought to retailers be extra clear and trustworthy about their sustainability efforts?

Sure. Solely via speaking about it may we clarify the complexities and our decision-making pondering. We dwell in a world the place folks energetically talk about issues – particularly on social media – as black and white. The entire problem about sustainability is that it isn’t black and white. For instance, when transporting items, you in the end need them to be protected. Sending an merchandise in a beautiful tissue bag that arrives defective isn’t any good to anybody. In truth, it’s worse as a result of it needs to be despatched once more.

You would use paper baggage, however which means reducing down virgin bushes. Some retailers spray paper baggage with chemical substances to make them waterproof, which suggests they’ll’t be recycled. We checked out compostable baggage, that are standard, however the fact is that they aren’t solely the place they need to be but and are fished out and despatched to landfill. We checked out plenty of choices, assessed all of the angles and determined the appropriate strategy for Boden was utilizing 80% recycled plastic as a result of it affords good efficiency and is an effective sustainable method ahead.

The purpose is there may be a number of nuance and plenty of issues to think about. It’s foolhardy to make outrageous claims as a retailer; folks can see via it. However, it should depend in the event that they see that you’re weighing up the professionals and cons and attempting to do what’s proper. That honesty will drive constructive engagement from clients and result in higher options. 

Q: What are you wanting ahead to, particularly, at IRX?

It is going to be the primary time I’ve attended this nice occasion. Companies are feeling beneath strain now, and turning into insular is tempting. Due to that, it’s important to get out and see what different persons are doing to achieve entry to contemporary concepts.

Ben is talking a IRX & eDX 2023 in two periods – a hearth chat, Rising from a small to medium-sized enterprise whereas staying true to your values, and a panel dialogue, The acutely aware client: encouraging customers to make knowledgeable decisions. IRX & eDX happen on the Nationwide Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on twenty fourth & twenty fifth Could. 

Register – without spending a dime – right here

#IRX23 https://internetretailingexpo.com/ 

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