BHETA merger statement ‘is pure spin’

BHETA is over-managed, has lost control of costs and has no intention of listening to members’ concerns.
Those are some of the latest allegations from CAT Enterprises managing director Charles Harrison, following the statement given to by The British Home Enhancement Trade Association on Wednesday.

The association is embroiled in a growing row, sparked by Harrison, about its pending merger with the British Jewellery, Gift & Finishing Federation. Harrison thinks the merger will be “a disaster”, and wants to see BHETA wound up and new housewares and DIY industry associations established.

Harrison told that the provisional name of the BHETA/BJGF “super federation”, the British Allied Trades Federation (Jewellery, Giftware, Home & Finishing) Ltd, was a portent of what the merger would mean for the housewares industry.

“What a name, it just rolls off the tongue,” he said. “Here we have the future encapsulated in eight words. If ever anything was decided by a committee with sector interests coming to the fore – this is it. Home starts in third place. I don’t know where it will end up if more associations join the super federation – and did they forget about DIY?”

“I can see it now,” he went on, “more committees, more meetings and more men in grey suits itching to make sure they are in as many of the meetings as possible. Everything will become a compromise, and ultimately nothing of any significance will ever get done.”

He said that organisations such as this inevitably failed to produce the savings envisaged, eventually cost more and achieved less.

Harrison also ridiculed BHETA housewares committee chair John Newcomb’s statement: “We have a two-year grace period on the merger, which allows us to establish exactly how the merger will work to ensure it suits our needs.”

Said Harrison: “If I didn’t laugh, I think I’d cry. Before contemplating going ahead with the merger the BHETA Board should have known exactly how it was going to work to suit the members’ needs, and given the members a detailed breakdown of where and what cost savings were going to be achieved. How much could these two years of grace cost the members?”

He said BHETA had already suffered by being over managed and having lost control of costs. “How have we arrived at a situation,” he asked, “where recent accounts show it cost members £68,000 on a DIY exhibition that never took place and £123,000 for a termination payment to the previous chief executive? If the board got it wrong before why should anybody assume it has got it right this time?”

Harrison believes the housewares industry needs a housewares association more like the IHA in the USA which, in his opinion, has financial stability because it owns 100% of its own show. He is highly critical of the BHETA Board over the Exclusively Housewares show.

“I still can’t believe that at a time when BHETA had assets of £3,500,000 the Board allowed the association to lose ownership of 48% of Exclusively Housewares for an investment of £4,800. It cannot be right for the housewares sector that a minority shareholder receives management fees of £95,000 each year for helping to organise a two-day show,” he said, and added: “Whatever happens, something has to change to ensure members get full control of their show.”

Harrison said he was not surprised that John Newcomb said there was no intention of reversing the decision to merge with BJGF.

“We all know what spin is and this statement is pure spin,” he said. “Presumably the same committee that came up with the new name wrote it. The housewares committee clearly does not intend to take account of members’ concerns or have any debate on the merits of an independent housewares association.

“If it was not for there wouldn’t be any debate at all.”

BHETA declined to comment.

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