Revolution lists its strengths as brand development, design, marketing communications and strategic analysis in the Design Business Association’s directory. The consultancy is also well known as a technology specialist, and has clients in Europe and Asia which range from Microsoft and Cable & Wireless to Marks & Spencer.
Although Revolution does not work for the ailing M&S in the UK, some of the retailers’ recent bad luck would seem to have rubbed off on the consultancy.
Last Tuesday Revolution chairman Ray Taylor called in receiver BDO Stoy Hayward to wind up the group’s environments division – responsible for retail and interiors work – because it had become too project management focused.
Maybe the move makes sense, on the basis that if you stick to what you do best you can grow faster and become a market leader. Incoming work requires resources which are limited in any firm. Using current and new projects as an indicator to decide the next steps of the business, some areas will inevitably be of questionable value.
But there are still some interesting questions to the Revolution scenario. Why did five people resign from the environments division, which had a turnover of 1.37m last year, putting it at number 11 in the 1999 Design Week interior design league table? And if the division’s work was on the downturn, at what point was the decision made to sacrifice loyal employees?
Former Revolution design director Stephen Scott is heading up the new “retail environments division” within the group’s restructured core strategy team. He says the resignations came after the restructuring (which would see the end of the environments division in its previous role) was announced.
“It would have been very easy to say we are number 11 and congratulate ourselves, but this is about the future. That is why it was a hard decision to make. But obviously we have to review and see how best to serve our clients,” he says.
Scott says that because of client confidentiality the start-up cannot be discussed at present, adding that the group is currently in talks about its existing client contracts. Scott will not be part of a planned breakaway operation.
Chairman Taylor says the group’s core expertise is in marketing and brand work. These activities do not dovetail with much of the environments division’s recent activity.
“Moving into town [Clerkenwell] is one of the factors. It is costing us over 2m. We want to use this as the catalyst to focus on our core competency.
“Environmental design was 20 people. A core team is moving into the group, but we don’t want to get into implementation work. We wanted to encourage the team to take over the contracts if they wanted to, and it is highly likely that they will,” he says.
Consultant Ian Cochrane of Ticegroup sees much sense in Revolution’s decision.
“I think that the international retail market is a very competitive one at the moment and often if you are a client you go to one of the big names. It is undoubtedly a tough market for anyone who isn’t a specialist. You have to focus and stick to what your strengths are,” he says.
Scott says the nature of retail work is changing, and retail chains with large portfolios of property have multi-channel opportunities for consultancies in the interactive age.
“The important work is going to be changing over the next decade. There are all different channels opening up, such as interactive channels offering direct sales. The Eighties and Nineties mass retail market is evolving,” he says.
Whether it was a firm, but fair business decision or something greater which broke the 20-strong division, one thing is clear. There is much more to be told, and during the coming weeks of fervent contract re-negotiations, an interiors start up could easily emerge. Just what it might hope to achieve is still unknown.
DW Top 100 ranking 1999: 1- DW Interiors ranking 1999: 1- Founded in 1979 as TPS Communications
1993 bought Ideas Design
1997 bought leisure design group Torres Design
RML (marketing logistics)
Scottish and Newcastle
Foothold shoe chain
Pets at Home
The Leading Edge