Richard Skelton is the E Commerce and Brand Director at Utility Design based in the bustling city of Liverpool who are renowned for their original designer furniture, lighting, home accessories, gifts, watches and jewellery … that’s a whole lot of design!
We caught up with Richard to find out a little more about Utility, how they work and what makes them so hugely popular on the high street …
IDEALIST: So Richard, can you tell us where you’re based and give us a sense of the history surrounding your company?
Well, we’re based in Liverpool and first started up on Bold Street – which has since become our spiritual home really. In fact, we’ve got two shops there now (although we used to have three) and have also expanded into the Liverpool One shopping area, opposite John Lewis. In addition to that we’ve got another shop in Kings Cross, London and of course, we’ve got our website but ultimately, we’re the only independent retailer in Liverpool. We’re pleased with that!
IDEALIST: That sounds fantastic – so what is it that you’re ultimately the most proud of?
Without doubt, that we operate as one huge happy family. We’ve currently got a team of 38 great people and we adopt a flat management structure to make sure that there’s a sense of belonging and that everyone can make a real difference. We actively ask the team to contribute about virtually everything – from how we sell things, to what we buy. Ultimately, the feeling of ownership across the entire team transfers into the unrivalled level of customer service we offer. I believe it really sets us aside as we’re extremely proud of how we operate.
IDEALIST: And what’s so unique about your products?
Well we fundamentally fall between two sectors – the gift sector and the furniture sector – but what underpins our whole philosophy is that we sell ‘design’. So whether you want a greetings card or a sophisticated sofa system, we like to think that we cover the whole spectrum and make our unique designs accessible to everyone.
IDEALIST: And what would you say is your most popular range?
Definitely our furniture range. It’s accessibly priced and lends itself to any interior so covers a lot of bases.
IDEALIST: If you were starting your company again, is there anything else you’d do differently?
To be honest, I don’t think we would do anything differently. The only thing we perhaps could have done sooner is to have gone online. Although we went online in 2005 our website is hugely popular and gives everyone the opportunity to browse and buy our products without having to visit one of our stores.
IDEALIST: And can you give us a sense of the day to day life in your role as eCommerce and Brand Director?
Well my day is incredibly diverse and no two days are ever the same. It’s just well, busy! I might be in a meeting with an online marketing consultant one minute, looking at the cost of plastic bags and rebranding the next – or looking at advertising proposals and attending supplier meetings to look at new collections. I’m also quite a ‘hands-on’ person so I might also be in the stores looking at how our products are displayed, making sure we’re executing sales to the best advantage or looking at our online sales history. It never stops really – but I have to say, I love every minute I’m at work!
IDEALIST: And finally – what are you most excited about in the next season?
Well we’re constantly buying and have some new collections coming in, which is always exciting but we’re also looking at the next stage of our web development plus a further two new retail sites. We love where our stores are now but we’re constantly on the look-out for new sites!
For more from Utility, shop with them online or visit them in store in Liverpool and London.
For more on design shopping in Liverpool, follow Jules’s trip here