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Question time - UK Blinds

Marian Byrne, national sales and marketing manager at UK Blinds, explains why buying British is imperative for business along with a customer focus

How did you get started in the blinds & shutters industry?

It is a bit of serendipity. I was working as the regional manager for a pharmaceutical division of Unilever, but always had an interest in colour, fashion and interior design. I was looking for a lifestyle change and this lead me to Eclipse, a company I had never heard of, although I was aware of Apollo. I was offered the position of area sales manager for Scotland, which started a 13 year career and an association with sister companies including Vertika, Sani and Turnils. Several successes and promotions along the way lead to my position of national sales manager for the UK and Ireland and a team of 11 area sales managers. Marian Byrne, national sales & marketing manager, UK Blinds

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

I had worked with a variety of personalities, mostly from high-street brands and blue-chip companies. All have had an influence on my career and my approach to the mixture of challenges you would encounter working in sales and marketing. I owe them a debt of gratitude and am grateful for the variety of experiences. However, our current managing director of Hunter Douglas UK has had the vision to recognise the importance of the UK Blinds brand and its potential, as well as the flexibility and confidence to support the range of initiatives used to grow the brand.

What would you consider your greatest achievement at UK Blinds?

UK Blinds was in need of investment, and that became a reality after the acquisition. The phoenix had risen from the ashes. UK Blinds had been reinvented and has become a successful retail brand within the HD Group. This has put UK Blinds in the best possible position to help its retailers develop their business and improve their profits.

How has the company itself changed in your time there?

A new energetic approach has completely transformed the structure and personality of the company. UK Blinds has benefited from a professional approach to planning, customer service, product quality, production and organisation. All this has taken UK Blinds in a different direction with an eye to the future. Our retailers have been quick to recognise the change and the additional benefits of being associated with an established national brand. UK Blinds' British butterfly

How would you define the UK Blinds brand?

A strong retail brand that gives its customers not just the products and support, but also the confidence to compete with other recognised high-street moguls. Retailers have ready access to the extensive product portfolio from the Hunter Douglas Group. UK Blinds offers a business opportunity with a choice, a style that does not feature the many constraints associated with other business models.

What do you feel is the greatest threat to the industry today?

An apathy of the importance of British products, quality and availability. There is no doubt we are under threat from foreign imports, especially from the Far East… somewhat similar to the textile trade in the 1970’s and 80’s. But we have learned a lot from that experience and it critical to develop strong partnerships with British manufacturers. It is possible to compete, but you have to look closely at all the overheads. We need to tap into our own resources. Keeping money in the UK has a domino effect, which in turn generates demand and creates employment.

What have you learned from the recession?

With every cloud, there can be a silver lining. Business is still there and consumers are continuing to buy. However, you need to be aware of the threats within the market. You have to be able to adapt to change to suit the market and make best use of your own particular knowledge and experience. You have to be even more accurate in your targeting, and business will develop. Anticipate the buying signs and give value for money.

Can the market look forward to a less turbulent 2013?

The austerity plan, which forms a fundamental part of Government policies, is sure to have a major influence on the window market, directly or indirectly. However, despite its proactivity, an attractive package and the future potential of the market, UK Blinds will still face challenges in 2013; challenges that will see UK Blinds consolidate its current market position while evolving in new markets and growing in others.

What is the best thing about your job?

I have a ‘people focus’, and get enthused from my contact with customers. I am impressed by their passion. They are lively individuals and are entertaining. I just love the chat, the challenge and being able to see them progress. ‘I just love it when a plan comes together.’

What does a typical day at work involve?

Every day is different. Multitasking is the key. I have to support my own sales team in the field, while at the same time considering how our internal teams, supply chain, production, administration and customer support, can improve and best serve our customers… all of whom have their individual deadlines.

From where does UK Blinds draw the inspiration for its products?

Firstly, UK Blinds always appreciates the importance of its customers and draws a lot of strength from their interaction. Secondly, and from the other end of the supply chain, UK Blinds has developed strong partnerships with its suppliers where they can expect quality products and service. Thirdly, the marketplace is constantly changing. We remain aware of the trends in fashion, what our competitors are doing, and always seek benefit from gaps in the market.

Who do you most admire in business and why?

I have a leaning towards the Richard Branson philosophy. I have great respect for how he has taken a good business idea and developed that into a winning formula, while never ignoring the importance of people, quality and service. After all, we don’t buy from an inanimate corporation, we buy from people.

What can we expect from UK Blinds in the near future?

In short, all things new. We are working on a variety of new products, which will launch during the early part of 2013 and beyond. This includes developments in wooden blinds, metal venetians, roman blinds as well as our new roller and vertical collections. We also expect to support these with some innovative sales and marketing initiatives.

UK Blinds




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