25 May 2024, 13:10
By Furniture News Nov 21, 2017

Inside the Mailbox with Simon Samuels

Birmingham’s freshest shopping destination, the Mailbox, unveiled its new 20,000 sqft Homewares section last month. At a time in which the city is showing great promise, the space brings Midlands shoppers an attractive, engaging and technologically-astute retail offer, and marks the regional debut for Heal’s and Made.com. Paul Farley spoke to Simon Samuels, a partner at joint owner Brockton Capital, to find out more …

How does this opening affect Birmingham’s homewares retail landscape?

Before Homewares at the Mailbox opened, there really wasn’t anywhere in Birmingham offering this scale of quality homewares and interior brands all under one roof – it wasn’t just a gap in the market, it was a gaping hole. On top of this, we know our customer base extremely well, and, detailed research made it clear that there was high demand for both aspirational and accessible contemporary furniture and accessories.

Our response was to create the ultimate shopping destination and the single largest collection of homewares and lifestyle products in the entire Midlands region. We’re extremely proud that the 20,000 sqft department store is headlined by Heal’s and Made.com, and includes BoConcept, Calligaris, Design Quarter (featuring contemporary furniture from the likes of Content by Conran and Sits), Wesley Barrell and iLite Lighting.

Who is your target consumer, and how are you reaching them?

The Mailbox customer is the discerning shopper looking for luxury and entry-level luxury brands, a truly diverse food and lifestyle offer, and a unique shopping and lifestyle experience. Research conducted by FSP shows that in the existing Birmingham catchment there is no shortage of affluent individuals – over 490,000 affluent, high spenders, according to Acorn consumer classification.

Birmingham is in the midst of a renaissance, and the Mailbox offering has been carefully positioned in line with what we know is coming to the city – whether that’s the high-profile relocation of HSBC UK to Arena Central just streets away, or professional services giant PwC moving to the Paradise regeneration scheme. Birmingham is also consistently ranked as having the highest quality of life outside of London, and is the fastest-improving place to live and work, according to recent reports.

But it’s not all about the city – the West Midlands is home to 5.7 million residents, and we already know that customers are travelling from across the breadth of the region, and beyond, to visit Homewares. Our multichannel marketing strategy is focused on inspiring our existing and potential customers, and bringing our whole proposition to life. For the launch of Homewares, this included a new creative approach, an extensive outdoor media campaign, targeted advertising, PR, digital, events, and a dedicated Homewares magazine, alongside unique interactive content within the new Mailbox app, which enables us to deliver highly-personalised messages to individual users based on their preferences.

How did you go about sourcing the retailers?

The Homewares project was 18 months in the making – starting from the initial idea, all the way to opening day. The concept came about because of demand amongst our customers and the fact that we had recognised certain products and brands that weren’t previously represented in the region. We identified Redbrick Mill – a leading interiors destination in Yorkshire which houses a number of homeware brands in one place, all offering something different to the marketplace. We worked closely with Redbrick to develop a similar concept in the heart of the Midlands, and this is where Homewares at the Mailbox was born.  

Throughout this entire process, we’ve been disciplined in maintaining the right offer that is consistent with our customers’ needs and wants, as well as everything else we do at the Mailbox. Homewares at the Mailbox meets this by offering a full range of price points and products, from those luxury purchases to the more affordable decorative accessories.    

How closely did you work with the retail brands involved?

We worked really closely with all of the brands to ensure they each maintained their individual personalities, at the same time as making sure it was a seamless customer journey throughout the Homewares department store. We came up with the design and layout, but it was very much a collaborative approach, and throughout the process we took comments and feedback on board to create the fantastic homewares shopping destination it is today.  

What were the key challenges?

The biggest challenge was simply getting six retailers to open at the same hour on the same day. Fortunately, it all came together, and opening day was a huge success.  

What are you most proud of?

We’re proud of the whole thing – it looks great, it flows seamlessly for the customer, the brands all complement each other perfectly, and we’ve had immediate traction with our customer base, which is impressive given the typical long-lead nature of furniture purchasing. We’re also really proud of the calibre of the brands we’ve attracted, and we look forward to more exciting names opening at the Mailbox soon.

How exactly will the Mailbox app you mentioned help furniture shoppers?

Our customers are more connected than they have ever been, and their expectations for seamless, end-to-end shopping experiences are intensifying. We recently launched our brand new app, which takes personalised shopping to a completely new level. A world-first in retail, the app uses location-aware technology and permitted data insight to recognise and communicate with customers in real time before they arrive, during and after their visits, and gives them access to unique tailored content and rewards.

App users can also browse a catalogue of the latest products and promotions and add items to a personal wishlist, which can be shared via social media. Our individual brands at the Mailbox can respond and interact with each customer too, based on their personal preferences. By transforming the Mailbox into a connected environment, the centre has become an intelligent space, understanding the demographic of its visitors and how they are interacting with our brands.

See more photographs of the Mailbox (courtesy Tom Bird) in the January issue of Furniture News, coming soon.

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