London Stock Exchange has today launched the second edition of its flagship 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain report, which Xavier Rolet, Chief Executive of London Stock Exchange Group describes as “an annual celebration of some of the fastest-growing and most dynamic small and medium-size enterprises in the UK.”
The project was first launched towards the end of 2013, with an aim to bring to life what London Stock Exchange “knew instinctively to be true: that these companies are the lifeblood of the UK economy.”
For inclusion in 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain, companies must be UK based, have generated a turnover of between £6-250m in the last 12 months and have been trading for a minimum of three years. Qualified companies were then filtered based on consistent outperformance of their sector averages in the previous four years. The research was carried out by DueDil, an SME itself.
Retail has its own category in the report, and so it should. 9% of UK businesses are retailers, and £1,275 is invested by retailers in training per employee. For its retail category this year, the landmark report selected Rapha Racing, a premium road cycling retailer, Discover the World, a specialist high end tour operator, Orlebar Brown, a luxury lifestyle brand, Not on the high street, an innovative gifting retailer, and Seasalt, a multi-channel retailer of women’s fashion and homeware.
For Adam Brown, CEO of Orlebar Brown, to receive the recognition is an honour. So what are the makings of an inspiring retailer?
“We’re a mix” Brown tells Retail Gazette, “a true multi-channel business that’s largely wholesale, with five stores in London and select locations such as Cannes.”
Orlebar Brown launched in 2007, giving gentlemen “shorts you can swim in”. After honing the core smart holiday travel offering, and only then, Brown introduced womenswear – 6 years after the onset. “It’s going as planned” Brown says modestly, “the goals weren’t hugely ambitious. We wanted to lay a solid foundation, give it time to place its roots before it began to grow. Womenswear now makes up 10% of the business, with the fabric bases and silhouettes all inspired by menswear.”
The company was essentially a start up that developed from Brown’s surprise at the standard of men’s swimming gear at a 2005 pool party in Rajasthan. Brown, who was a photographer at the time, filled a niche gap in the market and has made a neat transition from a premium resort brand to a luxury lifestyle one. “It’s a gradual process,” he explains. “We have instrumentally added new products through communication and developed things slowly. It all started online.”
That last part is important. As London Stock Exchange cites, shifts in in consumer behaviour are disrupting the retail landscape and giving rise to new digital platforms and technologies that augment the shopping experience.
As smartphones become ubiquitous and social networks grow in sophistication, consumers are finding new ways to shop. They’re not just purchasing in store with brick-and-mortar retailers, but wherever and whenever they find inspiration. Shopping via a smartphone has reached 41% of internet users in the UK, according to figures from Mintel, and those that do venture into stores are finding their experiences increasingly interactive and immersive.
“For us, the next step is consolidating what we already have,” Brown concludes. “We’ll expand through product categories including accessories and sunglasses, we’ll open new stores, particularly in the US, and we will evolve our retail concepts.”