Rising to the top – or at least the 35th floor

It seemed apt, hurtling up the side of a building in a fast-moving lift to get to our latest event, given we're called Rise. I am not scared of heights, but this lift got us to the 35th floor of the Heron Tower in central London in about five seconds flat. My stomach was still on the ground floor.

Only once we staggered out did I notice the breathtaking view. It was in this setting, the offices of online merchandising technology Attraqt, that we held our latest speed networking event. The premise was simple: with the city of London providing the backdrop, you chat to someone for three minutes before a bell rings and you move on to the next. It is all standing and wine and nibbles are provided. In between the short networking sessions, experts including John Scott, head of international business development at Debenhams, and Simon Hall, founding partner of 5x Thinking, gave talks on how to expand a fashion business abroad.

Hall, who is also former global head of ecommerce at La Perla, advised the audience to look at where their traffic is coming from before going any further. “Are you distributing there? Do you have a mobile site? There might be a way to grow sales without, say, launching in China,” he pointed out.

He added that there are five things to bear in mind when considering international expansion: really understand what you want to achieve; analyse the market and identify the quick wins; remember sometimes you have to fake it to make it, e.g. make sure you can be easily found on local search engines to give the impression you have an established presence in that market; work with great people; and make sure you are ready to expand.

Scott, meanwhile, revealed that MINT – or Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – is the latest group of markets to catch Debenhams' attention. In five years, the chain will have 30 stores in Nigeria, while Nigerians represent a decent chunk of sales in the Oxford Street store. He also noted that Southeast and Southwest Asia will be a bigger story for UK retailers in the near future, as sanctions ease.

It was a fun and genuinely informative event, where lots of business cards were swapped. The next Rise event will be a speed mentoring session on 14 September.


Kirsty McGregor - Rise Committee Member & News Editor of Drapers