the big interview In praise of collaboration Housewares Magazine talks to BHETA’s new president Alastair Fisher

and latterly the Association has got very seriously involved in lobbying - for individual members and for the industry in general. “The potential progress that can be achieved with this kind of collective engagement just cannot be underestimated. Whether it’s providing a knowledgeable buffer for a supplier company in dispute with a retailer, or taking on a whole issue for the industry, BHETA can play a very effective and helpful ‘honest broker’ role. “So, all things considered, being asked to stand as president was a huge compliment. I was very flattered to think that someone out there wanted that kind of input from me. And having become part of the team, so to speak, I’m really chuffed to be in a position to help and offer whatever guidance I can.” BHETA’s collective engagement - the collaborative, mutual responsibility sort of which Alastair speaks - probably could not have come at a better time, either for him as a director of a housewares company, or for the industry in general.

his wife, children and grandchildren, the sense of playing as a team, collaboration and working together to achieve the goal runs throughout his conversation. As the still relatively new president of BHETA (British Home Enhancement Trade Association) - he was elected to this non-executive position in July - it seems clear that his mission there will also be very much along these lines. Moreover, Alastair knows a thing or two about the potential power of the collaborative, family approach. Now joint managing director of knife and cutlery manufacturer Taylor’s Eye Witness, he joined his own family business after doing a business studies degree. The company can trace its roots back to 1820 when it was founded by John Taylor, who created the Eye Witness trademark, and after several incarnations brought about by marriage and allegiance with other Sheffield knife producers, it was bought by cutlery manufacturer Harrison Fisher in 1975. Clearly the family connections make a mark. “It does feel personal,” Alastair says. “Your responsibility for the people who work for the company does feel different to the kind of relationship that you might have as just an employer.” A similar level of emotional engagement is also clear in Alastair’s involvement with BHETA. For a start, the relationship goes back a long way. The company first became a member of

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amily is clearly important to Alastair Fisher - and not just on a personal level. For while he talks fondly of outings with

BHETA’s predecessor, the BHHMA (British Hardware & Housewares Manufacturers' Association), 40 years ago with the motivation for joining being fairly and squarely the opportunity it provided for exhibiting at [German trade exhibition] Ambiente. Over the years, membership has evolved as BHETA has sought to provide a much wider range of support services.

“We need to find ways to work together in a proper manner. We need to add heft to what we are about”


“Of course, as a housewares member, we have the very concrete benefit of access to [London trade show] Exclusively Housewares, which is massively valuable, but there are less tangible things which contribute hugely as well,” Alastair comments. “I love the opportunity for an exchange of information with likeminded people dealing with similar situations; and I can honestly say that I’ve never been to a BHETA forum and come away without learning something useful. “Nowadays of course there are other

excellent opportunities like networking with retailers through the ‘Meet The Buyer’ format,

Challenges “We are all going through a period of massive change in the way the shopper shops; and the way consumers and legislative bodies view corporate responsibility,” he notes. “Online is unstoppable and we all need to deal with that and adapt accordingly as individual suppliers and retailers. But some of the challenges we face are arguably bigger than anything that an individual company can wrestle with on its own. “This is why I believe the collaborative

approach to be so important. The big issue of the moment for all kitchen knife suppliers - and all their retail partners - is the stance taken by the legislature in its reaction to the very complex problem of youth knife crime. “Some of the tactics used in trying to focus the blame on the industry - I personally think because it is the esiest target - are unwarranted. “Working together we are making some

progress - not only in addressing the balance of opinion, but also in new and better initiatives from the industry, which will assist in ensuring the existing laws are upheld as they should be. “But the knife issue is only one example of

where a collective response is vital for support and credibility. And while the draft bladed items legislation does affect BHETA members in allied sectors, such as DIY and garden tools, there are other challenges on the horizon which will touch every supplier and retailer in the land. “The issue of responsibility for packaging waste is likely to become a matter for huge debate and it is excellent that BHETA is already October/November 2019

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