Profile: Geoff Barrett

Geoff Barrett joined Runacre Fowler, now Clip Display, 20 years ago in its woodworking shop. As managing director he has just overseen a rebrand which he compares to Marmite - you will either love it or hate it. Lorraine Francisco finds out more.

Few managing directors would compare their company rebrand to Marmite.

But Clip Display's Geoff Barrett says: "I think some will love it, some will loathe it. But people will remember it."

Clip has not had a significant rebrand since 1996 when Barrett relaunched the contractor's exhibition stand build offer while working in the company's operations division.

He joined Runacre Fowler, which became Clip Display, in 1982 as a production operative in its woodworking shop. Over the past 20 years he has experienced a number of changes.

He says: "The company moved away from exhibitions in the late 1980s because the industry was becoming heavily unionised. Carpenters were demanding 20% increases just before the larger shows opened and it became very difficult for contractors because, of course, we had to pay."

Barrett adds: "This went on year after year so we changed tack and moved into display."

Ten years ago Barrett persuaded the company to return to exhibitions and, with a new stand design and build division, the company became a tour de force in the industry. In 1998 he oversaw the launch of Clip's graphics operation and in 2002 became general manager. He has been Clip Display managing director since 2003. John Runacre, who founded Runacre Fowler in the 1980s, is still chief executive.

In another sign of the company's growth and refreshed image, Clip recently moved from its offices in Wick, on the outskirts of Bristol to new 697sqm premises in Bristol Business Park.

Barrett says the new building reflects Clip's creative element as the old offices in Wick were based in a factory. He says: "We have branded our new building Athena, after the Greek goddess of trade, art and creativity - very appropriate for Clip's aims as a company moving forward."

He adds: "We have experienced stable growth for the past three to five years and we're planning to expand our manufacturing capability as well as put a lot of money into graphics technology so the move was a necessity.

"Sales and production teams have grown significantly. Staff growth is increasing year on year with the production team already up by 13%. The new building will accommodate these growth rises for the next three to five years."

Barrett is passionate about Clip's creative capabilities and he feels that the website, which formed part of the rebrand, will be key to shedding the company's "industrial" image.

"The old website portrayed us as a supplier of exhibition stands," he says. "To me, a supplier is somebody who may supply plastic cups. If you want to talk to somebody about a plastic cup concept and get a creative angle on it, that is a different sort of company. And I didn't want Clip to be classed as the type of supplier that, for example, only provides boxes - we offer creative solutions."

BARRETT ON...

INTERNATIONAL CONFEX...

Clip has not exhibited at Confex for the past few years. In 2005 our rival Nomadic was the only comparable company to take space. When we dropped out it created a few waves in the industry and a few other people followed suit. But for me Confex is now simply a venue show.

THE EXHIBITING SHOW...

We're exhibiting for the first time this year. We've walked it the past two years and found that people are clearly willing to spend money on their stands so it seems to be delivering on improving the marketplace.

We're really looking forward to the Excel show in June and - in keeping with what we do at Clip - we have an interesting stand.

TRADE ASSOCIATIONS...

I don't think trade associations have done enough and infighting among members has not helped. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth and can make it hard to distinguish what the aims or gains are for some of these bodies. From a PR point of view, we don't see the Association of Exhibition Organisers very much here in Bristol. It has undergone a number of staffing changes recently and I think Trevor Foley and Austen Hawkins can only do so much.


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