A New Year’s message from Walpole’s Chairman Michael Ward and CEO Helen Brocklebank

Walpole’s Chairman and CEO reflect on the challenges of 2020 and the outstanding response many Walpole members have made to the national Covid-response effort – and how, thanks to the strength of our community, collaborations and innovation, British luxury is still the calling card for the UK on the world stage.

Cicero, one of Rome’s wisest statesmen, loved to give advice. When his brother, Quintus, was appointed governor of one of Rome’s most strategically important provinces, he wrote: “…what I ask of you most of all is that you don’t give into despair or become discouraged. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by a great flood of responsibilities. Rise up and face the difficulties that come your way or even go out to meet them. Fortune does not rule over your leadership….For the most part, your success depends on your own intelligence and hard work.”  His words have resonated with me over the last few weeks as we enter the long hard slog of a third lockdown and start to experience some of the implications of the new trading relationship with the EU.

The last ten months have been an immeasurably testing time for the leaders of Walpole member brands, and I have been inspired and humbled in equal measure to see how you have risen up and faced the difficulties that have come your way, and how you have reached out a collegiate hand to your fellow Walpole members, sharing issues and challenges, and lending your support and encouragement to your peers.

Cicero wouldn’t need to send letters of advice to any of you: instead I am quite sure he would write something in praise of the immense fortitude and creativity with which you’ve led, and continue to lead, your brand.

It is hard to keep going, particularly when we are all aware that the next few months will be the most challenging yet, but I just wanted to say that everything you have been doing to secure and stabilise your organisation, to meet the challenges head on, to accelerate your plans for digital and ecommerce and for sustainability, and to innovate and create new ways of working and new iterations of your business will stand you in enormous stead once we are out of this. The pace of the vaccination programme tells us we are nearly at the end of the tunnel. Hold firm: the prize at the other side is a resurgence and reimagining of luxury that will lead to an extraordinary renaissance of British luxury.

Ordinarily at this time, Walpole would host the annual CEO and Chairman’s dinner. Rather than wave rather mournfully at each other through a screen, Walpole’s Chairman, Michael Ward and I wanted to postpone it until we can be together in person and have the most joyful and wonderful celebration possible. In the meantime, however, Michael has recorded a message that captures his thoughts for British luxury as we look ahead as a sector: please click below to watch now, and please do get in touch with any thoughts and comments you may have.

HELEN

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