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VM interview: Jerry Hodkinson of Andy Thornton on innovation in retail displays

Jerry Hodkinson

Q: Your business has mainly been supplying the pubs and the hospitality sector – how does retail compare?

A: For us retail is very exciting. Fashions seem to be led by this sector, and the traditional market we’ve supplied has probably been a step or two behind. We’ve been in the retail sector now for about four years, working with White Stuff, River Island, and Fat Face, the latter for whom we bespoke-make racks. It is different. We’re used to supplying items in single digits or tens at the most. In retail you can get an order for 1,500 units! Luckily we have great supplier relationships. We’ve been going 40 years now, but we think the retail sector could soon comprise the largest part of our business.

Q: Industrial retro seems to be in right now; do you think this will continue?

A: I can definitely see this staying, although there have already been some minute changes. A few years ago, the vogue was for heavy, chunky metal fixtures and fittings. Now it’s softening a bit, with the focus more on shabby chic, and antique paint on timber. It all stems from the consumer wanting a better shopping experience. In our experience retail clients see the benefit of this, and are much more likely to order bespoke products, rather than items off the shelf.

Q: Where’s the innovation in the fixtures and accessories market?

A: In lots of places! We have our own CAD and product design specialists, so we will often work with clients to produce one-off samples that we can get approved before then manufacturing bespoke in greater numbers. We’re just about to launch a new ‘concrete range’ – timber items, but covered over the top with a special finish so it looks exactly like concrete, but without the weight! The range has been a long time coming. We kept rejecting the samples we commissioned, until we felt our supplier had got it right. We’re very confident it’ll be a success. Retail is still going for the exposed space, industrial patina look.

Q: What’s the overall market like?

A: It’s always tough, but because we’re relatively new to the market, and also because we feel we have some unique items, I feel we’re able to command a good price still, and make decent money. Of course, there’s always negotiation, but now that we’re becoming more known to retailers, we’re gaining good repeat business.