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Retailer Face To Face: House UK
Left: House in Oxford. Below: The coffee van makes an eye-catching display area.
Taking inspiration from US specialist Williams Sonoma, Steven Lew is quick to point that although House is a housewares/homewares store, it regards every product as a potential gift purchase. “We’re ‘cook, dine and entertain’, so we have something for everyone,” he emphasises. (Gift-led brands for example, include LSA International, Sara Miller London, Sass& Belle and Joseph Joseph). “It’s then up to our staff to match the customer with the perfect gift, whether that’s a set of six stem glasses or a block of kitchen knives,” Steven adds by way of explanation. Highlighting what he means, Steven points to House’s world exclusive The Egg knife block, launched last November, which has been featured on several ‘ideal gift’ blogs and UK style guides, with, according to Steven, “sales going crazy!” In the run up to Christmas, typical conversation starters with customers were about their Christmas lists, and who was left on them. For example, in one store, a customer was struggling to choose a gift for his brother who seemingly had everything. However, on finding out that the customer’s brother had a passion for fishing, a sales assistant suggested a fish boning knife - an ideal gift that was greatly appreciated. House UK’s stores are also mindful of local differences in stock, especially where there are significant numbers of tourists. And, of course, there is obviously a seasonal difference between merchandise in the UK and Australia. There is, nevertheless, a strong collaboration between the UK and Australian buying teams. Plus, House also
At House UK - a homewares store from Australia that arrived in the UK last Spring - founder Steven Lew says that “everything the shop sells is a gift.” PG&H caught up with Steven on his most recent trip to the UK, where he was visiting his own branches, as well as those of other retailers, to get an up to the minute sense of the market. With over one million consumers having already passed through the retailer’s doors in the UK, PG&H talked ‘House’ with Steven to find more about the retailer’s approach and ambitious future plans for the UK, which includes opening 75 new stores over the next three to four years.
benefits from Steven’s experience of the UK market as a homewares wholesaler for more than a decade (see Steven Lew: The Lowdown below). The UK’s merchandising director, Kate Thompson, points out that the biggest difference with regard to House, and her previous retail experience, (which includes House of Fraser), is that House is very
quick to react. Whether it’s remerchandising or changing stock, it is not uncommon to update stores on a daily basis. Steven highlights: “If Kate calls saying something needs to change, we’ll discuss it in the morning, and change it by the afternoon!” Clearly Steven is passionate about retail, recognising that it is about learning, reacting and adapting in today’s fast moving environment. Moreover, he believes that contemporary retailing isn’t just about selling product, it’s about putting on a performance. For example, at House’s managers’ conferences, which are held in Australia, Steven makes his presentation dressed in a costume - which has
Steven Lew: The Lowdown
l Steven Lew is the founder and executive chairman of Global Retail
Brands; ceo of House (with over 100 stores) as well as Robins Kitchen, which are Australia’s largest and second largest independent kitchenware chains. l Steven also heads up PlayCorp, a worldwide distribution company, with a focus on homewares, which has been supplying UK retailers for over 10 years. Right: House’s Steven Lew.
Progressive Gifts & Home Worldwide
Trade magazine featuring the latest in gifts and homewares.