Interview: Krisi Smith, Bird & Blend Tea Co.
Why did you choose to take part / be included in the People in Retail Awards?
It’s great to finally see awards that celebrate the hard working awesome people on the ground in retail (especially after a turbulent few years) rather than just head office or leaders. I’m excited to be a part of celebrating the industry and, more importantly, the superstars in it!
I also wanted to work once again with The Retail Bulletin, contributing to the incredible job that they do as a leading resource for retailers and epic speakers. I love speaking at their events so this opportunity to support the People in Retail Awards is absolutely thrilling and I am honoured to be a judge.
Why do you think these awards are important?
It’s been a challenging few years, for retail especially, and it definitely feels like the time for demonstrating how much we value the people who give their best to help make it all happen. We know we are proud of our teams, but how often are we really able to shout out about them and give them the recognition they deserve?
It’s also a great way to empower and instil confidence and pride in our people which helps them to be happy and motivated. These awards are important as they provide a national platform to say a proper ‘Thank you’ and to celebrate our exceptional people.
Any advice or top tips for companies entering?
Make sure you include answers with evidence for all of the criteria outlined in the award category. Showing is important too so don’t forget to include images. Have some fun with it as well and let your passion show through. There is an option to submit a video entry which is brilliant. Play to your strengths and choose the entry type (written submission or video entry) that you feel most confident with.
What do you admire about the retail industry and why?
I am a passionate advocate for physical retail spaces and human faces and have always believed in the power of connections and experiences. For us, that is a crucial part of our business model and is super important for our communities and our economy. From day one, we have always been a people first company which includes ensuring a great experience on both sides of the counter.
Any comment about how the retail industry has changed since the start of your career?
Absolutely. I have a long standing career in retail, from my very first job as a teenager as a ‘Saturday Girl’ to the last ten years founding & building a retail business myself.
When we first started building Bird & Blend the aim was always to have our own retail spaces & back then there was a lot of commentary about how the highstreet was dying and how we wouldn’t succeed with a retail business model – especially as a small independent start up.
Because we wanted to reach as many people as possible we also built up our website, events & brand partnerships, evolving over the years into a true omnichannel retailer. This has been invaluable over the last few volatile years for all things retail & consumer behaviour.
One of the biggest positive changes I think that I’ve seen is that retailers are starting to have to really think about how to attract and retain their fantastic talent on their shop floors. The industry is incredibly competitive and gone are the days where you can expect people to work 70 hour weeks, all weekend and evenings to ‘earn your badge’. I’d love to see the industry evolve more in regards to rewarding & championing their teams on the ground.
What changes do you hope to see in the future?
I’m really excited about some of the experiential shop fits & spaces that have been developed by forward thinking brands. Samsung KX is a great example, as are the changes Lush and Body Shop have brought to their shop floors and the Ribble flagship is next level too when it comes to interactive spaces. There are some interesting things happening in the digital showroom and TikTok live arenas too – with physical spaces doubling up as digital experiences for those watching at home.
I also hope that the rising interest & loyalty we are seeing in our stores continues, and is reflected across like minded retailers too. I know people have more choice, there’s more competition and there’s a cost of living crisis but for the brands really thinking about advocacy & experience the highstreet is definitely not dying.
We’ve got some exciting plans in the pipeline for more new stores this year and brand experiences too, so keep your eyes peeled