RPA considers a return to UK design industry

US retail specialist Retail Planning Associates is hatching plans to re-enter the UK, Design Week can exclusively reveal.

RPA reversed out of the UK through a joint marketing initiative with 20/20 in January, which gave the two consultancies access to each other’s European clients (DW 8 January).

RPA chief executive officer Todd Cameron concedes that it effectively marked RPA’s withdrawal “from a physical presence standpoint”.

Cameron says he is “not sure” how RPA’s plans for the UK will affect the deal. “We will have to evaluate whether it makes sense to continue to have the same relationship with 20/20 at a later date,” he says.

Rune Gustafson, 20/20 managing director, says, “We have a strong on-going relationship with RPA.” Gustafson adds that RPA’s plans in no way affect the relationship and that the two consultancies continue to hold monthly meetings.

Cameron says that RPA is considering acquiring a UK group, forming a strategic partnership or starting a practice. It has an acquisitions hit-list that Cameron declines to share.

It has already had preliminary talks with British consultancies, which Cameron declines to name. “The conversations have focused on meeting some of the players,” he says and have been of an informal nature.

Cameron hopes to have made an acquisition or formed a partnership by the end of the year.

He refuses to rule out the longer term option of starting up, which he says would take 18 months to two years to accomplish, if no suitable deals can be struck. However, he concedes that a start-up is “probably not the top option”.

Cameron appears to favour the buying or buddying route. “We feel that there some pretty decent firms [in the UK] already and it would make sense to work with someone already there and running,” he says.

“RPA is very interested in coming back to the UK. I can’t say any more now,” adds Cameron.

The news follows the appointment this week of Michael Bills as president of the group. Bills is a former RPA man who is returning after a two-year sojourn as chief development officer of digital design group Resource Marketing.

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