Profile: Waitrose Canary Wharf communication and marketing co-ordinator, Carl Kirby

A legacy of heavy spending isn't something every event organiser wishes to take on - especially in a recession - but, by his own admission, Carl Kirby has relished the challenge of making Waitrose Canary Wharf's events much more cost-effective. As resident event guru at the branch, he has spent a lot of time looking into customers' behaviour and as a result has become a huge advocate of interactive, experiential campaigns. He may have only had a short career in the industry, but as he chats to Event on the busy shop floor, it's clear he is not short on experience.

Carl Kirby
Carl Kirby

What types of events do you organise?

At the moment we do about half a dozen in-store events a year, for which we use the store as a location, and about the same amount of external events. We have also recently set up a cross-promotional partnership with Excel London. We organise in-store promotions to coincide with its events and often end up exhibiting at the events ourselves.

What has been your best event so far this year?

Our in-store Easter celebrations. We had an Easter egg hunt where children followed a list of clues around the store before spinning the 'wheel of fortune', where they could win a prize. The event was rated in the top five Easter events taking place in London on Visit London's website, and saw the average transaction go up by around £5.

How is the recession affecting your events?

Historically we had a very different way of producing events. We used to host a lot of celebrity events and book signings, which would lose us money, but at the time we could justify it because we were making people aware of the brand. Since the start of the credit crunch, our events have become much more interactive, which has made us focus on what the customer is getting out of them. We now have a model that is cost-free, efficient and gives us the maximum return on exposure.

What is your biggest challenge in producing events?

Keeping the balance between our day-to-day sales operations while hosting large-scale events in-store. It's all very well having 200 people participating in an event, but we don't want that to jeopardise the experience of other customers.

Are you creating more environmentally sustainable events?

Any event we produce or attend has to follow the same CSR model that affects the whole company. So, for instance, the bags need to be made of recycled materials, the paper for print media has to be sourced from sustainable sources, and the produce - where possible - needs to come from local suppliers.

What tips would you give organisers?

Think about how you promote your event, don't just rely on guests to be aware of it passively. Treat the promotion of the event as an experience in itself, and when you are at the event, think about what you can do to make sure that guests remember it, thereby increasing your brand loyalty.

Carl Kirby In Brief
2008: Leisure benefits co-ordinator, John Lewis
2008: Assistant editor, John Lewis Corporate Chronicle
2009: Communication and marketing co-ordinator, Waitrose Canary Wharf

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