Yankee Candle on the move!
Clive Harper, Yankee Candle managing director advises Gifts Today editor, Peter Hancocks on Yankee’s closely guarded secret!
During my extensive interview with Clive Harper during Spring Fair it came to pass that he was in the last stages of negotiations to move Yankee Candle to a new complex some 12 km from his current site.
He said: “We are negotiating for a building two and half times our current size; it will be around the 170,000 square feet mark and we hope to move during the last week of May and the first week of June.”
[It should be noted that since the initial interview Clive has confirmed that everything is signed, sealed and delivered and the move will go ahead as detailed above]
The new premises termed as ‘big boxes’ is on an industrial site in Avonmouth, ideally positioned close to both the M4 and M5 motorways.
Clive continued: “One of the reasons I’ve kept quiet until now is out of respect for my staff. It’s going to mean disruption to the people that work in our offices and I want to bring as many of my staff with me as possible. I have to manage their expectations and [historically now] had we started talking about moving and something came up and we didn’t move, people would then start to feel unsettled.”
He added: “We will be upgrading our system in the warehouse and at the same time as moving, just to compound my madness, we’ll be implementing a new ERP system which is valued at about US $500,000. The company’s whole computer system will be improved with the move time.
“Naturally the ordering and shipping will be affected during the move. We will have to transfer in excess of 10,000 pallets and we can only get a maximum of 26 pallets per 40-foot truck, you can imagine the difficulties we’ve got to overcome. We will have to manage during a period of approximately two weeks where supplies to our customers may be affected so we already have plans and have subsequently communicated these to our customers whereby we are offering an extended credit facility for early orders to cover them over the period. Basically we want them to order more product than normal before the move to allow them sufficient stock holding to carry them through. We have to work with our customers and manage their expectations in the same way that we have to manage our own. We can’t expect them to suffer because of our move. Rather, our move is designed to help us manage the growth of our business, which has been very steady at around 35% per year. We have lots of opportunities and we need to manage our business and also the service to our customers, hence the greater space, the new computer systems and everything to make us more efficient.”
Clive always looked around the Bristol area for the new premises and the primary reason behind that was because of his staff. He said: “After your products, your staff are one of the greatest assets and I wanted to maintain that continuity. There are not many buildings of the size necessary in the area and I’m pleased everything has been finalised, it’s a huge opportunity for us, albeit a logistical nightmare.
“I do have a medium term plan for the growth of the company and it is pointless making said plans with the type of growth we have in mind without establishing where that business is going to come from, how we’re going to get there and putting the finance behind it. So we’ve had to put all those things together to gain approval from our Lords and Masters; after all they are going to spend megabucks while investing in the European market and yes I have a plan that I think is going to come to fruition. We are doing very well in the UK market; it’s always been our bedrock. We’re working well with the customers, but we must also consider the European market as well although in truth we are growing very successfully in every market area.”
On the staff front, Clive further advised me thus. “Not only do we have to look at the building position and the technology we also have to look at the staff. We have quite a few important positions lined up and being searched for at the moment. We have an Operations Director coming to us from Tesco to look after the finance and the daily operation. We are also looking at other aspects of the market and we have people who have either joined the company or are about to join the company to strengthen the management and our ability to capitalise on this market. We’re investing in the building, the technology and also in people.”
Leading question to Clive: This is obviously a major investment for Yankee and I have little doubt the readers of Gifts Today would be delighted to learn how you view your own future? You’re not going to hand this expansion over to someone else readily are you?
Answer: I’m going to continue in my position for as long as I’m effective and for as long as I enjoy it. I have no immediate plans to leave Yankee Candle, I still believe in the brand and I still believe in the company. It is quite a different situation than it was 12 years ago when I joined, it’s still a challenge and I still enjoy it.
Further question to Clive: I wondered if you had a protégé in mind?
Answer: That is a search that potentially is on!
[The picture certainly gives a feeling of size]