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Retail strategy under the spotlight at autoretailing 05

Two globally successful retailers will share the secrets of their success at the first day of the two-day autoretailing 05 strategy conference in Birmingham on June 22.

They are Sahar Hashemi, co-founder of Coffee Republic, and Roger Penske, chairman and CEO of America’s United Auto Group which also owns Sytner Group in this country.

At a time when many dealers are looking to develop true retail businesses, their expertise and insight will be focused on helping delegates to set the right future plans for their business. And they will be on hand to debate key retail and strategic issues in the dedicated Q&A sessions.

Together with her brother Bobby, Hashemi founded Coffee Republic in 1995 and built it into one of the UK’s most recognised High Street brands with a turnover of £30m. Neither had any previous knowledge about retail, or indeed coffee. But they made Coffee Republic one of the main players in a ‘coffee revolution’ that transformed a nation of tea drinkers into one obsessed with ‘triple decaf lattes’. It is a fascinating and inspirational tale.

‘Anyone can do it’

Sahar Hashemi left the day-to-day management of Coffee Republic in 2001 and has written a book called ‘Anyone Can Do It – Building Coffee Republic from our Kitchen Table’ which tackles what it takes to build a successful retail chain.

Published in January 2003, it reached No 1 on the Amazon business book chart. It is recommended reading for the London Business School entrepreneurship course, and has been endorsed by the DTI, Prince’s Trust and Institute of Directors. She has also been named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Britain by the Daily Mail.

At autoretailing 05, Sahar will comment on some of the key factors behind the success of Coffee Republic in terms of building a retail chain and managing it, techniques to increase customer spend, retaining more customers and key yardsticks for measuring retail performance.

Roger Penske will give a global view of the retail strategies that he believes are most likely to prove successful for auto dealers in the 21st Century – including the luxury auto mall in Scottsdale, Arizona which encompasses his vision for the future of automotive retailing. Including the £1.3bn turnover Sytner Group, UAG owns and operates more than 250 franchises around the world. In 2004 the company increased revenues by 18% to $9.9bn, and net income by 35% to $111.7m.

Racing success

A former racing driver and owner of one of the most successful teams in the history of motor sport, Penske opened his first dealership in Philadelphia in 1965. He then built up the Penske Automotive Group, a California-based network whose flagship is also the world’s biggest car dealership, Longo Toyota.

Today that business is run by Penske’s son Greg and is among the 15 biggest groups in America. It is a separate business to UAG, in which Penske invested more than $80m for a controlling stake in 1999.

The conference will be chaired by TV newsreader and business journalist Huw Edwards. As well as moderating the Q&A sessions, Edwards will also have an electronic voting system to gauge the strength of delegates’ feelings on key issues raised.

To help retailers plan their business strategies, keynote speaker Alun Michael MP, who replaces Jacqui Smith MP as Minister of State for Industry and the Regions, will offer delegates a political insight into the industry, and an analysis of the future political landscape. The session will examine upcoming UK legislation the industry needs to be aware of and to act on.

It’s an opportunity for the industry to hear first hand how the re-elected Labour Government plans to help automotive retailers prosper in business, and to get a response to the view that the Government is anti-car and anti-motoring.

Possibly the biggest single issue facing dealers is that of manufacturers’ standards and bonus schemes. RMI chief executive Matthew Carrington will address this at autoretailing 05.

Paul Burrows and Nigel Ruddock of Grant Thornton Motor Retail will look at how the new approach to showroom standards and bonus schemes is changing the way carmakers and dealers work, with reference to the long-term financial effects.

Effective brand strategies

Increasingly, motor retailers are looking to develop their brands. Dr Leslie de Chernatony, professor of brand marketing and director of the centre for research in brand marketing at Birmingham University Business School, will speak on how to build a brand.

He has written several books on brand marketing, including ‘Creating Powerful Brands’ and ‘From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation’, and acts as an international consultant to organisations seeking more effective brand strategies.

John Russell, the managing director of Harley-Davidson Europe and a vice-president of the motorcycle company, is also well qualified to speak about branding, and in particular the impact it can have on customer retention. In his presentation at autoretailing 05, Russell will comment on the Harley-Davidson brand experience, involving the customer in brand strategy, the role of the dealer in supporting the manufacturer’s brand, branding to attract younger customers and customer retention.

Economic outlook

To further assist delegates with their strategic planning, Mark Berrisford-Smith, senior economist at HSBC Bank, will assess the economic outlook for the UK, analyse key factors that are driving the trends and highlight the impact on consumer and business spending – particularly on big ticket items like cars.

The conference is followed in the evening by the traditional AM100 Dinner. Sponsored by ExxonMobil Lubricants & Specialties, it’s a chance for the UK’s biggest automotive retail groups to socialise with their peers and to review their progress over the past 12 months.

Top industry analysts from Grant Thornton Motor Retail will present the Top 100 countdown at the event – before it appears in AM. The after-dinner speaker is comedian Dominic Holland.

n autoretailing 05 is held at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham on June 22 and 23. For more information, contact Luke Clements on 01733 468 325 or Or see the website at

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