Interview: Matt Bradley of Retail Technology Show
When the closure of the UK’s leading retail technology event RetailEXPO was announced there was widespread disappointment across the industry from retailers and vendors. For Matt Bradley it also meant his phone began ringing non-stop and his LinkedIn and Twitter accounts were deluged with messages from people expressing how much they would miss the event.
Bradley had been event director of RetailEXPO, which had been rebranded from Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) after the sale of the show to Reed in 2017. The first show was launched in 2011 and ran until 2019 when the combination of Covid-19 and a shift of focus by Reed signalled the end of the road.
Thankfully Bradley’s phone and social media accounts have again been abuzz recently, with congratulations and expressions of pleasure at the news that he is to lead a new event, Retail Technology Show, with Nineteen Group. The announcement has been made that the first show will take place at Olympia on 26-27 April 2022.
Technology driving recovery of sector
“The response from the sector was quite exceptional. LinkedIn and Twitter were full and my phone was ringing. It was the same feeling as in 2011. By the time of 2022 there will have been two years without a retail tech event in the UK and over this time technology will have once again moved forward. Retail has always been ripe for disruption – it will recover and thrive – and technology is the driver that makes it happen,” he suggests.
Bradley had been surprised by the response and found himself considering who would be the best people to help him introduce a new replacement event. After a call with Nineteen Group he found its combination of structure and strong finances along with an entrepreneurial spirit appealing. “They looked at the opportunity and not the risks.”
It was structure and finances that had also been attractive when Bradley and the team sold RBTE to Reed – “it was a huge company with the resources to get us to where wanted to be, faster, and they helped us with structure as we were entrepreneurial”. But even with the best contingency plans in place there was nothing that could counter Covid-19 and Reed took the decision to focus its resources on other sectors.
Combining structure with entrepreneurial spirit
With Nineteen and the Retail Technology Show Bradley does not foresee much change being brought to the format he employed at the RetailEXPO and RBTE shows. “Good things do not need huge changes. It will feel very familiar. There is a huge demand to see relevant and innovative technology but also for education and guidance so we’ll be driven by a conference programme. I’m producing the floor plans at the moment,” he says.
Content will again be an absolutely vital component of the Retail Technology Show and Bradley highlights how he is pleased to have the support of The Retail Bulletin: “It shows they believe in us and will help guide us. We’re delighted to be working with Karen and the team at the Bulletin. To have their support is very welcome.”
Such support comes from having confidence in the ability of Bradley to deliver a retail technology show with the same levels of success as achieved at the previous events he has delivered. He believes this has been helped by his immersion in the retail industry.
Unexpected affinity with retail
“I do not consider myself an event organiser. I’m in the retail sector. I live and breathe it 365 days a year. I don’t tend to talk to suppliers of exhibition carpet or to the venues either, instead I talk to the retail industry every single day,” he says.
The running of retail shows is something of a surprise because Bradley was hardly enamoured with retail or technology when he was initially asked to be involved in the first RBTE show and become a director of the business.
“I thought it was just about tills. I did not know the in-depth workings of retail. Okay, I thought I get my credit card out and there are these tills but how do I get a show out of this? But then I travelled to the NRF show [in New York City] and thought this is huge. I now could never see myself doing anything else. I’m happy to be back,” he says.
Words by Glynn Davis
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