TONY PREEDYChief Commercial Officer of Fruugo at Ulverston in Cumbria On the move

with the system handling the translation in both directions. We’re a commission-based system with no listing

fees or upfront costs; retailers only pay when they get a sale. The retailer just has to ship the orders to the relevant destination. For most retailers that join us, we generate a lot of incremental sales for them. Fruugo currently has around 18 million items on

sale from around 1,000 retailers based all over the world. The largest sales volumes are UK to EU and vice versa but we are also generating substantial sales from customers in North America, Australia and the Nordic region.

Where were you? For the last 10 years I have been director of marketing and international development at Lakeland, the kitchenware retailer.

And how did you get there? I joined Lakeland from the Otto Group where I was UK marketing director. Otto Group is the largest home shopping company in Europe; I worked for the UK business which operates brands such as Freemans, Grattan and Kaleidoscope. Prior to that I was at Shop Direct Group for 15 years, primarily working in direct marketing and e-commerce. I studied economics at university, which I still use

in my work today, and did a post-graduate qualification in marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). Recently I became a Fellow of the CIM, having enjoyed the teaching I’ve done for them.

Where are you now? I have joined Fruugo as chief commercial officer. My role is to develop and execute its global growth strategy. I will be helping to co-ordinate the work of our technology, customer service and sales & marketing teams, as the business continues its rapid growth.

Tell us a bit about Fruugo. Fruugo is an e-commerce marketplace that makes it easy for retailers and manufacturers to sell to global customers. We receive product details from retailers and merchants in one language and then market those products in 32 countries, in 17 languages, supporting 22 different local payment methods. We handle all the translation and localisation. Retailers know what they will receive when they get a sale and are paid in their native currency. Our customer services portal is also localised, so

queries received from a customer in one language are sent to the retailer to answer in their language,

20 |

“Price transparency is squeezing gross

margins while, at the same time, the costs of doing business are generally rising. That

combination is proving deadly for many ”

What’s the biggest change since you became involved in the housewares industry? The growth and importance of digital marketing and e-commerce, and the disruptive effect they are having on traditional retailers’ business models.

What are the biggest issues facing the housewares industry? Price transparency is squeezing gross margins while, at the same time, the costs of doing business are generally rising. That combination is proving deadly for many. Investment in branding, to avoid commoditisation, and selective distribution with proper strategic partnerships between manufacturers and retailers, has never been more important.

Name one change would make to the housewares industry. Some manufacturers and distributors are trying to sell wholesale to retailers, and simultaneously compete with those retailers by selling direct to consumers, usually on Amazon. I believe that arrangement is unsustainable and ultimately a choice of business model will have to be made.

What’s been the biggest achievement of your housewares career? Sustaining and growing Lakeland’s reputation for quality, service and innovation. I was fortunate to work with some great people and inherit a tremendous business reputation built over decades by the three Rayner brothers [Lakeland part-owners Sam, Martin and Julian], but I like to think that my work over the last decade contributed to developing Lakeland to what it is today.

Over the years, what housewares products have impressed you most and why? Joseph Joseph have impressed me. Their product development is founded on deep consumer insight, and their ability to engineer innovative solutions to those customer needs is coupled with fantastic ergonomics and product design.

Which housewares retailers do you most admire and why? IKEA. They cost engineer their products to eliminate any aspect that the customer does not truly value. They are ruthlessly efficient in terms of how they design their products and how they exploit tremendous economies of scale.

What will you miss? My lovely marketing team at Lakeland, and the work we did storytelling about Lakeland’s great cooking, baking, cleaning and laundry products. I’m a better cook than I was 10 years ago simply by learning from the amazing chefs and home economists that create Lakeland’s photography and videography, and the team of in-house writers that come up with the ideas.

What won’t you miss? I loved working for Lakeland and I’m proud of the work I did there. But I am relishing the opportunity of working in a fast growing technology business that has a unique and valuable service to provide to retailers, and helping customers buy from retailers all over the world.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the housewares industry? Be curious and be imaginative but use facts to guide your opinions and decisions, not the other way around.

Is it goodbye or au revoir to the housewares industry? Neither. Fruugo covers more or less every product category imaginable, and I will for a long time have a soft spot for housewares. However, it will be lots of fun getting to know the wider assortment from Apparel to Zodiacs December 2018

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