A whiter shade of sales | Incentive & Motivation

Corporate profile

A whiter shade of sales

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It started as a mail order brochure. Twenty years on, The White Company’s multi-million pound retail offering is the go-to place for quality home accessories and childrenswear and its new reward and recognition arm hopes for the same upward growth…

A 12-page brochure and a big idea – the start of what is now one of the UK’s most aspirational retail brands. But Chrissie Rucker couldn’t have known that when, in 1993, she founded The White Company.

Frustrated by the lack of designer-quality, stylish items available in white, she built up a business that soon became renowned for supplying simple, elegant home wares at affordable prices. What started with bedding and linen has grown to a product range that encompasses tableware, bathrobes, candles, lighting, Christmas decorations, and childrenswear, toys and baby clothes via The Little White Company, which was created in 1997.

Clearly it was a gap in the market that needed to be filled – for now, two decades on, The White Company is a multi-million pound, multi-channel retail business, with a growing presence in the UK, online and overseas.

Within those 20 years, there have been many key milestones, notably the 2011 opening of its 8,000 square foot flagship store in Sloane Square, its link-up with the Daily Mail Rewards platform and the US launch of The White Company’s website and catalogue earlier this year.

Perhaps one of its most highly anticipated launches – certainly in the B2B sector – was the arrival of The White Company for Business in January 2013. The brand teamed up with Jordan Media to create and develop its corporate arm and, in the months that have followed since the launch, they have supplied gift vouchers and support services to corporate users, who wish the brand to form part of their employee rewards and benefits, customer loyalty, promotions and Christmas rewards offers. 

The B2B market isn’t new to The White Company, as it has been a steady part of the brand’s revenue for a number of years. Its corporate/trade arm began and built up through its relationship with interior design companies and property developers looking for home accessories to complete the look of their private and commercial properties. From that point, the brand started looking at further corporate opportunities and the inspiration for The White Company for Business was born.

Compound this with the arrival of the brand’s new chief executive Will Kernan, who tasked the whole business with going from good to great, and it was felt that there was a very definite opportunity to hone its B2B offering.

The White Company vouchers give customers ‘three ways to shop’ as they can be redeemed in store, online and via telephone orders. This multi-channel approach is an interesting innovation in its own right, particularly in a retail sector where many brands are still slow to introduce online redemption. But add to this the fact that The White Company’s vouchers have delayed activation (the vouchers have the functionality to be activated upon delivery to the client, reducing the security risk involved in transit) and the brand’s fledgling B2B offering is already shaping up to add an interesting new dimension to the marketplace.

Emma Clarke, head of multi-channel customer services, says: “Our vouchers have been extremely well received in the B2B market. The brand itself is aspirational and has a definite connection with beautiful, feelgood products, so you know that when you give The White Company vouchers to an employee, you’re giving them something extra special that they can really treat themselves with.”

Emma cites another of the brand’s key B2B strengths as its strong reputation for account management. Its dedicated account team looks after more than 700 clients and works hard to fully understand each one, ensuring that the service they receive from The White Company is relevant and honed specifically to that business’ needs.

Clarke continues: “Our account managers get to know their clients inside-out and make sure they are talking to them regularly to keep their knowledge fresh – they have detailed understanding of everything from the business proposition to their despatch requirements. We like to think of our service as more of a personal shopping experience.”

So what next for The White Company as it seeks to build its reward and recognition offering? For the brand, international expansion, particularly into the States is planned while, for interim sales manager Mandy Precious, one of the key focuses is to look for business opportunities with large-scale clients, such as airlines, hotel groups and restaurant chains.

She says: “We have a product mix that enables us to create unique partnership opportunities with businesses. For example, whereas some companies might only be able to offer a range of its toiletries to a hotel chain, we have an entire portfolio of lifestyle products. 

“We’re currently rethinking our B2B strategy and we’re confident that it will develop into a very exciting offering.”

Certainly a white canvas upon which to make its mark. For more information on The White Company for Business, visit www.thewhitecompany.com/business-to-business

Fast facts

  • 40+ stores in the UK and Channel Islands, in addition to a growing store franchise in the Middle East
  • Gift vouchers are available in £5, £10 and £50 denominations
  • International shipping is available at cost. International shipping of furniture is unavailable
  • Discounts are available on voucher orders exceeding £500.

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