Interview with Harvey Davenport, Managing Director
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I find building and developing long term relationships with clients very rewarding. We’ve been working with some of them for over 20 years. When we started working for Pets at Home, they only had around 45 stores and were nowhere near being the biggest pet supplies brand in the UK. Once they bought out the UK Petsmart franchise that all changed, and they are now this huge presence in the sector with now over 450 stores. It’s been very exciting being involved in the development of the brand and we’ve had a big role to play in that evolution.
Which past project really stands out for you in your career?
No one project stands out. All sectors I have been involved with over the years have always resulted in good working relationships and numerous exciting projects or programmes, from Ladbrokes, Sony Psygnosis, Pets at Home, Vets4Pets, Calder Vets, Hobbycraft to Vetpartners. Obviously a good long relationship means you are doing something right!
Given the challenges faced by retail in city centres, how would you transform city centre buildings to make these retail spaces useful again?
I think we should design residential spaces above multi-purpose ground floor spaces. This has worked so well in big European cities like Madrid and Barcelona and we should take inspiration from them. There are big swathes of those cities that have retail or commercial space at street level and apartments above. It means there is guaranteed footfall for the shops and it would make those city centre spaces really vibrant again.
How much impact is online retail having on your retail clients’ projects?
Not much to be honest. They tend to have an excellent online presence too, which doesn’t detract from their physical stores. Pets at Home and Hobbycraft for example are both destination locations. Despite the challenges to the retail sector of recent months, both these clients have ambitious expansion programmes. Customers want to go into Pets at Home to access services such as dog groomers or the in-store vets and they can’t do that online. Hobbycraft customers will always enjoy going into the store to select fabrics and enjoy choosing their craft supplies.
How has your role changed over the years?
I don’t really do any technical drawings any more - that tends to be done by our experienced NWD team, which has a wealth of knowledge and experience in these type of projects. The main change for me is the amount of paperwork these days we have to do around compliance with all areas of processes and procedures; principal contact with heads of companies to ensure the steady flow of work thoughout the coming year.
What are your ambitions for the year ahead?
To stay healthy! Mainly I’m looking forward to carrying on supplying high quality services to our clients and in particular working closely with a number of veterinary practices to continue to expand our knowledge and expertise in this sector.