on the board Chris Ford, sales and operations director, Berghoff UK On the Board

Over the past 26 years, Berghoff has grown to the stage where we trade in some 60 countries worldwide. It is recognised as an international company that creates, produces and distributes a wide range of sophisticated and affordable cookware and kitchen accessories. With a vision that believes in providing design, functionality and quality, it has now established its presence in the UK under new management with a small but professional team dedicated to increasing the company’s product footprint with the major retail players both online and with the traditional bricks and mortar format.

What’s your working week like? Having had to move offices and re-focus the business all within a few months, my work schedule has changed somewhat, so I am now working from our offices four days a week (staying on site in a flat) and then working from home on a Friday with lots of online screen meets with buyers and colleagues in Belgium.

What’s keeping you busy/what’s on your agenda?

What is your career background? Given my vintage, I have had quite a long and varied career. My association with housewares began straight from college as a kitchenware buyer for an Oxford street store (Bourne & Hollingsworth), from which I then graduated to becoming a central buyer with a department store chain (Allders). Five years later I switched to the ‘dark side’ and became sales director for a leading bathroom furnishing manufacturer followed by a stint at a PLC company as a sales director based in Manchester. I then owned and ran a bone china factory based in Stoke, developing bathroom accessories for a number of the country’s leading department stores. Following this somewhat stressful and financially wounding period, I then returned to the housewares industry and enjoyed several key roles with companies specialising in sourcing product from the FE. Finally, I arrived at Creative Tops in 2009 as a business development manager and later being promoted to a senior account manager. In 2015 I retired to my estate in Hampshire, but a surfeit of lunches and inclement weather lead me back to the housewares business and to a role with Berghoff UK in 2016.

Tell us about the company? In 1994 Berghoff entered the housewares market with a few cookware and cutlery sets.

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These two questions go hand-in-hand, so our goal is to achieve the revised sales budgets and to ensure maximum cost savings which are vital given the current situation and expanding our routes to market. E.g. B2B, online, gaining more supermarket business and to exploit our brand message in terms of social media.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job/most challenging aspect? Certainly for me, working with my highly motivated team and to see the business responding positively to the new ways of working which have dramatically improved the way we operate as a business . The challenging part is to continue this progress whilst working with the weight of both Covid-19 and Brexit.

What do you do to relax? Well it used to be shopping but frankly the fun’s gone right out that past time now. So for me, keeping in touch with my friends is key and trying to stay fit. Music also figures highly on my relaxation chart.

During your time in the housewares industry, what products have you most and why? As previously mentioned given my vintage, I have seen just about every gadget and labour saving device going, from a cherry stoner to a melon baller and in fact someone from our industry once wrote having the right peeler can change your life” – definitely not in my world! I still maintain a good knife is the most useful

piece of equipment you can have in a kitchen. Therefore for me, global knives are the epitome of what a good knife should be.

During your time in the housewares industry, which retailers have impressed you the most and why? I think I have to name Sainsbury’s during the current crisis, as they have helped us in terms of faster payment for goods and consummate support both personally and with a number of in-store promotions which thankfully have been very successful. Their attitude to our role within their business has allowed the Berghoff brand to flourish and grow within their store estate.

What’s the biggest challenge and opportunity facing the housewares industry suppliers? The reality is that they appear to be one and the same thing! As with a number of enlightened suppliers BERGHOFF has invested and set in a motion a program of new and exciting product launches for next year and without the back-up of trade exhibitions our marketing team have invested both time and money in order to maximise our brand values and to embrace all manner of social media platforms in order to get our message out there.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen since you joined the housewares industry ? Having started my career back in the late 60s, we had no computers, no mobile phones , no emails, no social media and the only way to communicate was either in a letter or using a public telephone. So with all the changes that have occurred over the years, we still struggle to communicate with our buyers. An avalanche of emails/ answer phone messages shower the internet on a daily basis and we couch our requests for information in the most diplomatic of terms and still no response! Maybe all new buyers should spend a couple of months working for a supplier?

What one change would you like to see in the houseware industry, and what advice would you give to someone starting out in housewares. From a selfish point of view, I would like to see Berghoff UK as the “go to kitchenware supplier”, but other than that, I would say to anyone wishing to join the “merry go round” that is housewares, then come on down and embrace it, as it is one of the friendliest and most entertaining industries out there and in these surreal times we need to grab our happiness where we can. October 2020

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