EN speaks to the MD and chief business officer of Creative Hire, Wes Britton and Adam Aston.
Even when Wes Britton was in Spain, honing his golf skills to achieve Pro status, he would think about furniture. Whilst golf unfortunately didn’t pan out, he was more than happy to fall back on his first great love: design.
Britton studied for an Interior Design degree and has a particular passion for furniture.
He explained it: “I’m a bit of a magpie. Since being a kid, I have always loved shiny things, colours, new things and as I studied, all of those things came together in furniture.”
Britton noticed early on that the UK’s furniture offering seemed to fall behind those of other countries. Thinking he could base a career on this, he started to import design-led furniture from overseas, selling it to companies and individuals.
Britton was always happy to give an opinion about the latest trend if a client asked for his help. This turned the business into a consultancy, following repeated requests to suggest designs and give a view on a project, rather than just simply provide the goods.
As furniture is a core requirement of exhibitions, Britton started to work with a number of event companies as they sought to up the ante on what was being put out on the show floor.
With his workload ever increasing, in 2010 Britton decided to launch Creative Hire.
Britton said: “10 years ago, exhibitions looked conventional. I was on a mission to help steer organisers think outside of the box when it came to the furniture at their shows.”
In the last 12 months, Creative Hire has been more focused than ever on supplying a different kind of service to the events industry.
The firm has taken on Adam Aston who has many years of experience in furniture contracting.
Aston and Britton have known each other for some time, having met in the pub after an industry do. They became friends. “We realised we shared a vision for a more design-led approach to supplying organisers,” says Aston. “We both wanted to change the traditional view of the contractor as a supplier of product only.”
As chief business officer, Aston takes a more consultative approach to working with clients, and brings his know-how to every single aspect of the company, from concept to delivery.
“Wes and I came together because of our love of design, of stylish things, of fashion and interiors,” he says. “Combined with our years of experience in this industry, it means that we can really be a force for good when it comes to reimagining the event environment.”
Their hard work is paying off as Creative Hire is increasingly brought in earlier in the event cycle. They are increasingly being asked to contribute to the complete concept of the show from the start, not just “at the end when teams are trying to fill up some space with tables and chairs” as Aston puts it.
Britton and Aston want to work with organisers to approach their events in a way that will resonate with the visitor.
Aston explains: “Everyone who visits an event is a consumer and will experience that show as such. Even at a trade show, people will react in a completely different way if they are doing business in an environment that appeals to them.
“The marketing manager in a business lounge likes to sit in a plush, hotel-like area and enjoy a stylish space as much as the blogger at a fashion event.
“We want to blur the lines so that people can appreciate and enjoy the environment they are in, be it trade or consumer. This has a direct impact on how they experience the show, how they spend time and money and is crucial as to whether or not the event organiser achieves its objectives.”
The pair are now seeing organisers embracing the idea of different types of exhibition spaces which use more colour, different fabrics and raw materials.
Britton says: “It demonstrates a new thinking which reflects modern hospitality and lifestyle trends.”
Recently, Creative Hire has invested heavily in product, bringing in more than 1,200 new items, in addition to investing in infrastructure at its warehouse, adding four new loading bays and three new mezzanine levels, and introduced new recycled furniture ranges and sustainable covers for furniture.
On the topic of sustainability, Aston says: “We are not content to have a certificate that says we are ‘green’. We know exactly how each piece of furniture is made and the story behind it.”
As a result, Creative Hire has become the fastest growing furniture contractor in the UK and brought 33 new organising companies onto its books since April 2019.
The company’s hashtag ‘#letsgetcreative’ is being used more and more by organisers they are working with as they embrace the company’s stance. Britton and Aston were delighted to win three EN awards last year recognising Creative Hire’s different approach. This ethos runs right through the company, with Lois Furlow, who joined in 2019, but who has years of exhibition experience, winning the EN Unsung Hero award.
Despite the accolades, they are not ones to rest on their laurels.
Britton says: “We are facing unprecedented challenges. Coronavirus is having a huge, huge impact and of course we are worried.”
Aston says they’ve had many conversations about postponed shows and people unsure about the future of the industry. He remains optimistic, however, saying: “We will get through this. Maybe the industry will be a very different place, but we’ll be ready to work with organisers to make their shows environments where people want to come together again.” EN