Q&A with John Herbert

The Hardware Journal recently touched base with European DIY-Retail Association and Global Home Improvement Network General Secretary, John Herbert to find out more about the man behind the Global DIY Summit.

Can you tell our readers about your background (education, career) and how that experience has helped you in your current roles as General Secretary of the Global Home Improvement Network (GHIN) and the European DIY Retail Association (EDRA)?

I left school in Easter 1956 just before my 15th birthday and began working for a local Co-op grocery store. As it turned out, joining retailing was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I had the greatest luck possible in having a manager, Mr Johnny Appleton, who was completely devoted to giving an excellent service to the customer, and he also treated us employees with the maximum amount of respect. The experience I gained 62 years ago has been the foundation of my own career, I owe a lot to this manager.

I joined the army in 1962, and was stationed in Bielefeld, Germany. In 1965 I joined the NAAFI , the retailing arm of Her Majesties Forces and quickly moved up the ranks to become the district manager of a large region of Germany looking after the stores and canteens for the soldiers and their families. In 1975 I left the army and took a position of departmental manager in a German hypermarket, later to become the store director of the first sales centre hypermarket in the United Kingdom operated by Sainsbury’s and British Home Stores in 1977. This was at 36 years of age.

On my return to Germany in 1979 I joined hypermarkets retailing once more, before taking the position of CEO of Knauber in 1983, a family owned chain of Home Improvement stores based in Bonn. I was there for 17 years. It was during my time at Knauber that it was voted by the American Home Centre Magazine, a leading trade publication, as one of the world’s best stores. In 2000 I was appointed the Divisional President of the Home Depot EXPO responsible for the West Coast of America. In 2002 I returned to Germany and took the position of General Manager of the BHB, the German association for Home
Improvement Stores. Shortly after my appointment the German and French associations decided to create a European Association, this was the start of EDRA, the European DIY Retail Association.

For the first two years EDRA was managed by the French Association, and I took over responsibility in 2004. In the first eight years of my tenure at EDRA we built it up to include
most European DIY retail companies. In 2009 we had requests from Home Improvement Companies outside of the EU to join EDRA, this resulted in the foundation of GHIN, the Global Home Improvement Network. In the past 14 years I have travelled over 400 times to Home Improvement Companies all around the world and today EDRA/GHIN has 177 Home Improvement Members operating in over 70 countries.

Can you tell us a little about both organisations and how they would be beneficial to Irish DIY and Home Improvement retailers?

EDRA was formed in 2002 through the joining of the BHB and FMB, the German and French home improvement associations. There are currently 101 members of EDRA and our members cover around 90% of the Home Improvement Market in Europe. Of the Top 15 European DIY Retailers by net turnover (2017), 14 are members of EDRA. EDRA’s primary
role is communicating between members and developing and facilitating common positions amongst our European members to create a strong voice and representation in Brussels for the Home Improvement Industry.

GHIN is the international branch of EDRA. All members of EDRA are automatically members of GHIN. With members operating in over 70 countries globally, and with eight of the top 10 global DIY retailers by net turnover (2017) being members of GHIN, we truly have an international reach. With this we can share information regarding best practices, current
developments and new and successful concepts between our members internationally. We aim to facilitate collaboration and co-operation, but strictly ensure there are no competitive
issues involved.

With the recent additions of the IHA, the International Hardware Association, representing hardware stores globally, and EDIN, a facilitator in the B2B sector, EDRA/GHIN now
represents almost all aspects of the Home Improvement Industry.

Our members also benefit from access to exclusive study tours to various countries, and the organisation of country specific study tours should they wish to learn more about a
specific market. For example, at the beginning of this year we organised a study tour in which I accompanied 28 top global CEOs and executives of some of the largest Home
Improvement Stores to Japan. We learnt about, and saw, some the newest concepts of retail in Japan.

We keep our members up to date by providing each member with a copy of the annually published DIY retailers Handbook, produced by Dähne Verlag, which provides statistics for the European and Global Market. We also provide each member with a copy of the Fediyma EDRA Global Home Improvement Report and other brochures pertaining to the Home
Improvement Industry.

Our members in Ireland include Woodie’s, Topline and United Hardware. These members have benefited from their membership by attending previous Global DIY Summits,
networking and meeting some of the biggest players in the Home Improvement Industry.

As we edge closer to the leaving date of the UK from the EU, what do you consider the most significant obstacles in the next two to three years in the European/Global market?

It’s my opinion that we are currently living in a period in which greater co-operation and partnership is needed; global markets have evolved to such an extent that no company can now rely solely on their internal market. This is clearly shown in that the largest retail companies; Tesco, Walmart, Auchan, Carrefour, LIDL, ALDI… are all working internationally.

I deeply regret that the UK is leaving the European Union. I consider this to be a very bad decision, not only for the EU, but also for the British consumer.

The Global DIY Summit is coming to Dublin next June 2019. Can you explain why the Summit was established and what it hopes to achieve?

The Global DIY Summit was established in 2010, and at our first meeting, in Vienna, we had 300 attendees. In all the years since we have managed to attract more people, and we are expecting at least 1,100 delegates to attend the 7th Global DIY Summit in Dublin from over 50 countries.

Not only has the attendance increased, but also the quality of attendees. All the largest firms that have a stake in the Home Improvement Market are present at the Global DIY Summit, sending their CEOs and Senior Management teams, which is why it has become the principal networking event in our industry.

The main aim of the summit is to inform attendees of the best practices, and theorise on future market trends. If a company is to succeed and grow in these times it is key to look to the future and determine how they can evolve to be at the forefront of developments relevant to their field.

Were you surprised by the success that you’ve experienced in terms of attendance and interest in the Global DIY summits?

I would not say we were surprised at the success as I believe we have found the perfect formula for such an event. An excellent facility for learning is key to this, and the CCD is a
perfect example of this.

Having a top programme of speakers, both from the Home Improvement industry and other sectors, as well as giving our delegates plenty of time for networking by creating a
get together taking place the evening prior to the event, a VIP Cocktail party and also a tour of the local stores, has contributed to this winning formula. When it comes to service
excellence we make no compromise.

We work in very close co-operation with our partner association Fediyma, the European Federation of DIY Manufacturers, in the preparation and running of the Global DIY Summit. This plays a key role, as working in co-operation with Fediyma results in a world class event with both the biggest retail players and manufacturers of the Home Improvement Industry present.

We also spend a great deal of time in choosing the venue for the Global DIY Summit, and the surrounding events. For example, last year we held the Global DIY Summit in Barcelona, and the gala dinner took place in the MNAC Museum, with an astounding view over Barcelona. Venues and cities are only picked if they have a truly international draw, and the attendees are then given the chance to vote on where they would like the next Global DIY Summit to be held.

So, I can’t say I am surprised by the success of the Global DIY Summit. With such a outstanding team working so hard to bring the event together I was always sure that the Global DIY Summit would be a success, and the feedback we receive each year demonstrates this quantitively.

How would you encourage local retailers to attend?

The Global DIY Summit can play an important role for local retailers, particularly for those with a vested interest in the home improvement market, but also those who want to learn more about the retailing landscape more generally. It offers the chance to network with some of the largest players in the Home Improvement industry, from both the retailer and manufacturing sectors, and learn about the future of the industry.

Local retailers can benefit greatly from this networking and learning opportunity. If they  wish to improve their standing in either the local market, or the global market, I would say that their attendance of the 7th Global DIY Summit is a complete necessity.

Personally, I think it would be a pity if local retailers decide to not experience this event as it is taking place on their doorstep.

What does the future hold for the home improvement industry?

We are living in a period of substantial transformation for all sectors of the retail industry. With the continued growth of e-commerce, there are many opportunities presenting
themselves. However, to truly take advantage of these opportunities we must strive to remain at the forefront of trends and developments.

If the e-commerce sector does continue increasing its market share as it currently is we may see a reduction in footfall on the high streets all across the world. Shopping malls may
become a thing of past, unless they re-design themselves to offer a truly enticing shopping experience.

It is for this reason that events like the Global DIY Summit and associations such as EDRA/GHIN and Fediyma, are becoming increasingly important. Companies need to co-operate more strongly with one another, and associations such as these enable them to do so.