An independent British lifestyle store, Oliver Bonas designs its own take on fashion and homeware. Here, RLI sits down with company Founder Oliver Tress to talk about his company and where he hopes to take it in the coming years.

The Oliver Bonas story begins with its Founder Oliver Tress. His creative upbringing, culturally influenced by the many countries he lived in, instilled a love of design and an exploratory spirit from an early age.

“The last 12 months has seen us open eight new stores and maintain an omni-channel approach,” explains Oliver Tress, Founder of Oliver Bonas. “Our continuing challenge is to make sure we are different and stand out from the crowd, and we do this by making sure the way that we interact with our customers is unique, along with our unique range of products.”

The company’s most recent store opened in February at Gatwick’s North Terminal. This store, along with the one at Luton Airport, represents the beginnings of the brand in the travel retail sector, a sector they are looking at expanding in over the next few years.

On the international front, plans are moving forward for the first store in Ireland, which will offer an opportunity to test all of the systems ahead of other potential European openings in countries such as Holland and Germany. “There are lots of locations that excite me and lots of places I would like the brand to have a physical presence,” says Tress. “At the moment we have South Korea in our sights, and for me I would love to take the brand to the US at some point in the future.”

Launching ‘a first’ of something is always tricky, and this proved to be the case when opening Rose & Loon, as around 90 individual makers came to the company before launch interested in displaying their products, so it was definitely a case of judging what they thought people would want rather than knowing what they would want.

The Oliver Bonas store offer remains consistent across its portfolio, the only exception to this rule was some local buying for some of its stores. For example in its Glasgow unit, the company bought and introduced local books to its product range, to make the store more relevant to the location. So how does the company continue to develop new
products to keep its momentum going?

“The quest for new product is a constant one and we have an in-house design team who travel the globe for inspiration and to learn about new trends. There are a lot of mechanisms in today’s world for researching trends, so we strive to ensure we challenge ourselves and the status quo in the way we look at things.”

Delving into the values of the company and its ethos, Tress explains that there are two key elements which he believes keep customers coming back and also what it is that distinguishes the brand from its peers in the industry. One of them originated in a wall art they created years ago, which had the words: Work Hard, Play Hard, Be Kind on it. The product sold well and in time it was adopted as the basis for the company’s values, you work hard while you are with the company, but you also play hard and remain kind.

The second element is that, at all levels of the company, the customer comes first and everything employees do is based around giving the customer an enjoyable experience at whatever point customers interact with the brand, whether that be in store or online.

Tress believes that modern retail is extremely competitive and faces oversupply across the board, he points out that in today’s retail world you have to differentiate and that there are a variety of different ways of doing this.