Online trading inspires debate at BHETA forum

The British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA)’s November housewares forum took online retailing as its theme including perspectives from online retail outlets, legal advisors and The Cookshop and Housewares Association (CHA).

Mark Lesniak of profiled the business-to-business opportunities that offers for British design, innovation and quality. Supported by UK Trade & Investment, is an entry-level exporting solution for UK-registered businesses. It aims to allow British businesses to reach new global markets and customers cost-effectively, and with the minimum of effort, on its eCommerce platform.

Keynote speaker was Joan Woulfe, owner of Cooking Marvellous and chair of the CHA. Trading since 2005, firstly from a high street store in Shrewsbury , and now online with a warehouse just outside the town, Cooking Marvellous dispatches housewares orders to 135 countries (and groceries, health and beauty products from its Tastes Marvellous sister site).

Joan gave an insight into the history of the company and also the business model it employs, covering margins, delivery speeds, postal charges and returns policy.

Mick Weedon, deputy ceo of bira (British Independent Retailers Association), presented an assessment of housewares retail, both online and on the high street. He covered statistics and opportunities for each in a dynamic and shifting market. For online, Mick stressed the opportunities for service as distinct from sales for bricks-and-mortar retailers. For high street traders, he examined the potential for in-store theatre and destination creation.

Legal advice for online trading was provided by Gerald Couldrake of Howes Percival, who outlined the regulations that govern the channel, for retailers, suppliers and consumers. The key learning, he said, was the need for ‘terms and conditions’ that are not only robust but clearly communicated, transparent and understandable to all parties.

Commenting on the event, BHETA homewares sector director Will Jones said: “Housewares retailing now needs to cover a great many different consumer experiences and consumer needs, from the delight, expertise and personality of destination cookshops, to the convenience, range and service of online retail. This forum explored all these opportunities.”

BHETA president Roger Morgan Grenville added: “The forum was enlightening as ever and contained some very shrewd advice as to the opportunities and pitfalls the market now provides.”

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