On Friday 20th March I was lucky enough to attend one of Time Inc’s ‘Inspired Conversations’ sessions, which saw the Editor of Living Etc, Suzanne Imre interview the flamboyant MD of Liberty, Ed Burstell.
Most people in the audience instantly recognised Burstell from the C4 documentary series ‘Liberty of London’. His ‘celebrity’ status combined with his coordinated florescent yellow scarf and hanky, instantly created a buzz within the theatre, before the animated New Yorker even opened his mouth.
Although famous for his stint on C4, he is also a well-known business figure praised for adeptly leading Liberty’s double-digit year-on-year growth since he arrived in 2008. When asked how he managed to achieve these remarkable numbers within a tempestuous retail environment, Burstell simply replied ‘common-sense’. He explained how his first change was to restructure the store layout by allocating floor space based on a products profit margins (i.e. furniture which is one of their least profitable categories previously consumed 2 out of the 6 London floors). Additionally, and more imperative to his success he broadened his audience. Rather than solely targeting their ‘loyal traditional customer’ who as Burstell bluntly stated ‘were dying off’ he looked to target a younger fashionista demographic, as well as the obvious tourists, who in fact now account for 20% of their annual revenue.
Although a born and bred New Yorker he explained how he finds working in London ‘refreshing and exciting’. According to Burstell, the Brits have a flare of ‘creativity’ which is unlike any other Nationality. This uniqueness inspired him to focus on young British designers like Mary Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto who ultimately helped to attract his desired younger Fashionista customer.
From this session Burstell reinforced the importance of targeting the right audience, to always question the ordinary whilst taking inspiration from your surroundings and to always colour coordinate your accessories!