CASE STUDY: WH Smith High Street Manager Annual Conference


David Banbridge, Store Operations Manager, and Natalie Smith, Senior Project Manager, from WH Smiths talk through hosting their annual conference at the ICC.

Name of event: WH Smith High Street Manager Annual Conference

Date: September 26th, 2018

No. of delegates:  600 High Street Store Managers with 100 Head Office employees

What happened at the event?

2018 marked the beginning of a new era for our Store Manager National Conference as we embarked upon hosting a conference for every store manager in the country under one roof.   Previously, we had held a number of smaller, regional conferences, however it was decided that we should bring together those running our high street stores with our head office teams and suppliers. The focus of the conference was to get everyone together to look at commercial plans for Christmas 2018 and also the year ahead. Conferences like this are ideal for best practice and success story sharing.

On the day we used the ICC’s Hall 4 for the conference and we worked with the venue to utilise the adjoining Symphony Hall’s foyer for the trade aspect of our event. This was split across four levels covering a large area which really maximised the space for our 46 stalls – a mix of suppliers and head office teams – that were all available to speak to our store managers about their plans.

The conference aspect was really exciting.  We kept to a traditional theatre layout however we didn’t want a static event. We had an X-Factor theme with our board of directors being the “judges” and Richard Madeley as our compère.  Richard created a fantastic atmosphere as he interviewed people on stage in five different segments. It really gave a dynamic feel to the event and kept our employees engaged.

The ICC team were fantastic in getting the production just right to create a dramatic lighting effect on the stage which really enhanced the atmosphere. We found the ICC production to be extremely slick and professional – and this was true for the whole event. Every question we had was answered and no request was too large.

The ICC utilised space to provide a unique exhibition for WH Smiths

What challenges did you face?

The most challenging aspect of the event was the trade market stall aspect as it wasn’t in the original plan to use the space at Symphony Hall. This was a new way to use the space for the venue as well and ended up being much bigger than we had anticipated. The foyer isn’t a typical square box and each of the four levels is a different shape. However, the ICC team were really positive and had a can-do attitude that nothing was ever too much trouble. We had issues making sure that there was enough power, however the ICC team worked extremely hard to get this resolved.

How did the ICC make your event shine?

We have had great feedback from the event and I don’t think any of our store managers would have guessed what was going to happen on the day. Having the conference in one hall with lots of engaging content and the trade market stalls in a different place kept our delegates moving and interested. The ICC team were brilliant, always professional and always reassuring. We wanted an event that really engaged with our store managers and we definitely achieved that at the ICC.