A re­tail mile­stone

Brian Bell cel­e­brates 60 years

Paradise - - In Paradise | Contents - David James re­ports.

“This year is a real mile­stone for us. Only a small num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions in Pa­pua New Guinea have been around longer than 60 years and we are proud of this achieve­ment,” says Ian Clough, the chair­man of the Brian Bell Group.

“What started as a small gun shop on Ela Beach in 1958 has grown, as a re­sult of the hard work of thou­sands, to be one of PNG’s most recog­nis­able brands and a con­trib­u­tor to the econ­omy,” he says.

Brian Bell is a di­ver­si­fied re­tail con­glom­er­ate that has in­cluded depart­ment stores, home cen­tres, chem­i­cals, clean­ing prod­ucts, in­dus­trial equip­ment and farm machin­ery in its port­fo­lio over the decades.

Clough says the com­pany is now mak­ing “multi-mil­lion kina in­vest­ments” in ware­hous­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion, and is ex­pand­ing its port­fo­lio through prop­erty devel­op­ment.

“On top of our largest dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre be­ing built at Gerehu (in Port Moresby), we are build­ing an ex­ec­u­tive apart­ment project in Port Moresby that is de­signed to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties not only for our own peo­ple, but for the wider mar­ket.

“In the last two years and the com­ing two years, the group will have seen some of our largest in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments in its his­tory. We are also scop­ing to ex­pand our Mount Ha­gen op­er­a­tion in the near fu­ture,” Clough says.

“Our en­ter­prise is evolv­ing in how we think, how we op­er­ate, and how we con­nect glob­ally.

“PNG is in the early phase of ex­pand­ing global recog­ni­tion. The global in­vestors that will be at­tracted to PNG via APEC and other key pro­grams will bring in­ter­na­tional brands and com­pa­nies to our shores.”

Clough says he sees some pos­i­tive in­di­ca­tors that the econ­omy is beginning to emerge from the down­turn.

“We see some good early signs for ac­tiv­ity. It is look­ing like the next 12 to 18 months are go­ing to be rea­son­ably chal­leng­ing. The re­cent earth­quake has been dev­as­tat­ing for the peo­ple in the area af­fected but we also see some head­winds as a re­sult for the econ­omy.

“How­ever, af­ter we work through this, we are very pos­i­tive that business in PNG will see the growth that it has been look­ing for­ward to for the last four or five years.”

Clough says there are plenty of business op­por­tu­ni­ties in PNG, but says any ac­qui­si­tions for the group have to be aligned with the core busi­nesses.

“The last thing we want to do is dis­tract our­selves with non-core ac­tiv­ity that will not drive the out­comes that we need – we don’t want to in­vest a lot of our tech­ni­cal

One of the dif­fer­en­tia­tors with Brian Bell is that cus­tomers can come to buy from a wide range of prod­ucts and know that we will ser­vice it af­ter they buy it.

sup­port team’s en­ergy on try­ing to sig­nif­i­cantly fix an­other business or change it.

“We are be­ing very se­lec­tive in what we do. We are in­vest­ing in our cur­rent core in­fra­struc­ture.”

Clough says the com­pany con­tin­ues with its foun­da­tion of fo­cus­ing on pro­vid­ing high­qual­ity prod­ucts and af­ter-sales ser­vice.

“One of the dif­fer­en­tia­tors with Brian Bell is that cus­tomers can come to buy from a wide range of prod­ucts and know that we will ser­vice it af­ter they buy it.

“We in­vest in our team’s skills in the tech­ni­cal ser­vices area and with prod­uct knowl­edge.

“We are also in­vest­ing in our lead­er­ship teams. We have more than three gen­er­a­tions work­ing within our or­gan­i­sa­tion, with some team mem­bers be­ing a part of the jour­ney for over 40 years.”

Clough says the com­pany is also in­creas­ing its fo­cus on pro­vid­ing value for money.

“One thing that con­cerns me is that be­cause we sell qual­ity prod­ucts with war­ranties, there is a per­cep­tion that our pric­ing is out of reach for Pa­pua New Guineans. Our team has worked very hard on sourc­ing more ac­tively; find­ing goodqual­ity prod­ucts at bet­ter prices, which shifts that value equa­tion. “We won’t ever com­pro­mise on qual­ity, but we will of­fer a wider choice to our cus­tomers. It is im­por­tant that our cus­tomers know that when they leave with a pur­chase they have re­ceived the right ad­vice, with the best value on a qual­ity prod­uct.

“Our strat­egy is to have prod­uct ranges that pro­vide our loyal cus­tomers a ‘good, bet­ter, best’ op­tion.”

Clough says the suc­cess of Brian Bell is at­trib­ut­able to the com­pany’s com­mit­ment to PNG, as well as its in­no­va­tion and will­ing­ness to sup­port the lat­est prod­ucts.

He is cau­tiously look­ing at e-com­merce, but be­lieves “do­ing it slowly and smartly” is im­por­tant. “You have to se­cure your pay­ment gate­way. There is fraud risk that needs to be mit­i­gated. There are a num­ber of things that can go wrong work­ing re­motely with cus­tomers.

“We are iden­ti­fy­ing ways to pro­vide our cus­tomers with more con­ve­nient so­lu­tions us­ing e-com­merce or visual gate­ways, but maybe not full on­line shop­ping.

“An­other con­sid­er­a­tion for any e-com­merce ac­tiv­ity is the cost of data. Data is very ex­pen­sive in PNG. The more that cost low­ers, the more ac­tively cus­tomers will en­gage fur­ther in the dig­i­tal space,” Clough says.

“We are look­ing at more im­me­di­ate ways that we can im­prove our cus­tomers’ shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of im­proved gift card pro­grams, and our new Brian Bell re­wards pro­gram.

“We have cus­tomers that have shopped with us for over 30 years. A re­wards pro­gram is key to pro­vid­ing that ex­tra con­nec­tion and re­ward for be­ing loyal.”

A cool hand … the Brian Bell Group is a re­tail con­glom­er­ate that has depart­ment stores and home cen­tres in its port­fo­lio.

Ian Clough ... the chair­man of the Brian Bell Group.

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