Innovative Retailer: Beaverbrooks

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Name: Beaverbrooks

The Place: UK-based with a multitude of stores around the country.

The Story: It’s been selling bling for 100 years but the story of family-run jewellers Beaverbooks is very much one for the here and now.

How so? Beaverbrooks could have written the mantra we all live by now.

Stay Home Save Lives? No, not that one.

Stronger Together: Yes that one. They have more than 900 employees and around a fifth of them have been there for 15 years or more. In retail that’s a phenomenal retention rate.

How do they do it? They give you £750 when you’ve done a 15-year stint. I know that much. Phone call and letter of thanks from the boss at five-yearly intervals together with money on a sliding scale.

The Beaverbrooks 10k Fun Run

Nice: But who are these purveyors of jewels? It’s a family set-up. Three brothers from the Adlestone family arrive with a suitcase of jewellery and Isaac, Harry and Maurice begin selling in 1919. Just a year after the Great War ended.

You’d never think people would want to buy jewellery so soon afterwards: Are you kidding? People needed cheering up more than ever. Want to be happy, want to get married and want to celebrate special occasions. There’s always a reason for another pair of earrings. 

Then what? Well, turns out they were pretty good at selling bling and a year later they opened their first store in Belfast. After the Second World War the name was changed from Adlestones to Beaverbrooks.

Don’t tell me – after Lord Beaverbrook: How did you guess – yes, the very same. His name was synonymous with integrity and honesty and any brand wants to be associated with that. So they gave up their own names and renamed their chain of stores.

Cut to 2020: And an Adlestone is still chairing the business now and guess what, the last five years (pre-Covid-19) have been the most consecutively profitable of the whole century.

But how, what, why? It’s the employees, stupid. Now the Managing Director Anna Blackburn, who incidentally has been there for 22 years.

Wait, how much do you get for that? I’ve really no idea. Stop interrupting. Anyway, Ms Blackburn is a big proponent of ‘The Beaverbrooks Way’ which can be loosely translated as being a great employer translates to the bottom line.

Happy staff = bigger profits: Exactly. Something that seems very straightforward but is surprisingly hard to achieve.

Chair Mark Adlestone with MD Anna Blackburn

Before we carry on, just hit me with some more of those employee perks: During the centenary year every employee got their birthday off.

Nice: And £100 to spend on something nice.

Even nicer. Managers are trained in mental health support and to spot the signs of mental stress. And the bodily health of employees is taken very seriously too.

Let’s get physical: Yessir. In the winter of 2019 Beaverbrooks launched the Winter Wellbeing initiative which involved keeping staff fit and well during the winter months, which came hot on the heels of the Centenary Stepathon.

OMG it sounds totally exhausting. I’m surprised they can stand still long enough to actually sell anything: Now there’s a lot of stuff at Beaverbrooks that you can only buy there.

Exclusivity – I like it: Oh yes, the company partners with some very big names to develop collections. Gucci, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors and Vivienne Westwood to name but a very few. It punches high.

So what else is it doing to figure in our Innovative Retailer column? Well, not only does it look after its own community of staff but it also gives an awful lot to other community groups. In 2000 it made the decision to donate a fifth of its retained profits to good causes and on average it makes around £13.5 million a year in profits.

Part of The Beaverbrooks Way

Crikey. What sort of figures are we talking about here? Since 2000 it has donated £14.5m to more than 750 charities, mainly via the Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust. Staff can also nominate causes special to them for team donations of £100 per person, which adds to the warm fuzzy feeling and there is a £250,000 pot of funds that staff can suggest good homes for.

And less energetic: Funny you mention that – Beaverbrooks also founded the Blackpool 10K Fun Run, which raises a large amount annually too. They match every penny raised by the staff but in Centenary year they double-matched it so don’t get me started on the Payroll Giving engagement rates.

Go on then…45% of staff do it as opposed to less than 10% for the average company.

Sainthood really does beckon for the Beaverbrooks management: Well, like I said before, there is a hard-nosed side to it. Employees work harder, stay longer and give more when they are getting something back. And when they are allowed to give something back themselves – Beaverbrooks supports its staff volunteering in the community and last year more than 10,000 staff hours were given over to this.

You know, I can’t fault them: Neither can The Sunday Times – Beaverbrooks’ has featured in its ‘Best 100 Companies to Work For’ survey for 16, yes that’s 16, years! And last year it achieved its highest ranking ever with tenth place.

Sounds like diamonds have a soft side after all: Correct.

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