CEO Letter | Walpole reflects on a record-beating 2018 at AGM
Last Friday, we held Walpole’s annual AGM – it’s always such a helpful and encouraging opportunity to take stock of what we have been doing on your behalf to promote, protect and develop British luxury.
2018 was my second year as Walpole’s Chief Executive and marked the mid-point in a three year roadmap, setting the direction for Walpole’s second quarter century. Against a backdrop of continuing political uncertainty, it is even more important for British luxury brands to have a strong collective voice, both in the UK and internationally, showing the world how the sector exemplifies exceptional creativity, craftsmanship and entrepreneurship and how much the sector contributes to Britain’s global soft power. When you bring people together, extraordinary things can happen and to that end I’m delighted that Walpole now counts more than 260 luxury brands as members.
One of the ways in which we tell the story of British luxury is through our owned digital content and in 2018, our digital reach exceeded 24,000. Our own channels began to grow rapidly after the 2017 relaunch of our website, by GGMR, and during 2018, the newsletter became a particularly valuable way to communicate the strengths of the sector, the stories of our members and news of Walpole’s work. It is also an effective way for us to tell you about the 36 events we hosted in 2018 – new for last year was the Walpole Future of British Luxury Summit, in association with Global Blue and Facebook, hosted at BAFTA, which shared insights from Bain, The Economist, Future Lab and other experts and the stories of luxury leaders – Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo in conversation with The Times’ Anna Murphy; Kristina Blahnik, CEO of Manolo Blahnik talking to Bazaar’s Lydia Slater; and Rolls Royce’s Richard Carter discussing Rolls Royce’s most successful ever year with the FT’s Simon de Burton. This Summit will be anniversaried early in 2020. Also new in 2018 was the introduction of Walpole’s monthly Member Socials, held at The Hari, which offer a relaxed, informal opportunity for members to connect with each other. The pinnacle of the Walpole calendar each year is The Walpole Awards, key to how we promote British luxury at home and abroad, and in 2018 we achieved a record media reach.
We also continued to reinforce our work in our two strategic pillars: Luxury in the Making, in which Walpole helps nurture the skills and talent required to future proof the sector; and Global Britain, in which Walpole helps members do better business overseas – crucial for a sector in which 80% of output is destined for overseas markets. The latter focused on our annual US trade and media mission – this three day trip to New York is designed to help members crack this crucial, yet challenging, export market, which already represents nearly a quarter of all British luxury exports – as well as on strengthening our relationships in Europe to help protect supply chains and other relationships post-Brexit. The most famous example of our work in our Luxury in the Making pillar is our flagship programme, Brands of Tomorrow, and we have focused on creating investment opportunities to help fledgling luxury brands scale, of which more news over the coming weeks. In 2018, we focused the work of our Women in Luxury programme on a single goal of gender parity in the British luxury C-Suite by 2025, and we also launched Tomorrow’s Talent, which connects luxury businesses with their local school to help create a pipeline into the luxury workforce, and takes a long term but effective approach to helping close the skills gap in British luxury businesses.
2018 has been a year in which Walpole has accelerated its work to get British luxury the recognition it deserves, to amplify the collective voice of British luxury and to create a flourishing, effective, valued community of Britain’s most exciting businesses. I’m both delighted and very privileged to play my part.
Here’s to continued success in 2019.