End-to-end project management (and everything in between) What does best-practice look like?

Matt Hornblower

matt.hornblower@nuttall.co.uk - Principal Contractor - October 19 2021.

Every retail interior project starts with an idea or requirement – the desire to present product to customers in ways that engage, support the ultimate purchase and now, in light of our pandemic experience, comply with health and safety requirements for the protection of consumers and retail staff.

Typically, any project will also be subject to an acid test at the point of delivery as the on-site build and installation takes place. As a time-critical, high-stakes business, down-time and trading disruption in retail are to be avoided at all costs. So well-orchestrated, detail-managed executions are the order of the day.  A project completed with zero noise beyond ‘good-job, well done’ is the holy grail for retail stakeholders in-store and at HQ – and it’s what we aim for here at Nuttall.

But we’ve been turning our attention to what happens in between the idea and the install.  Retail projects are often complicated, meaning strong process and project management can make the killer difference between success and failure – a project running like clockwork, or a series of headaches and successive problems to be solved.

Having talked at length to our customers across the retail space, we’d like to share their view on what good looks like.

1. Help us capture and develop our idea.

Our clients spotlighted the importance of a quality brief. After all, the quality of the output is only ever as good as the quality of input into a process.  But beyond that our customers gave us pointers about what good looks like in the design, visualisation and prototyping stages of their projects.

  • Capture the idea brilliantly.

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s a practical, operational requirement – for example to increase facings or capacity in store. Other times it’s about brand, impact, merchandising and customer experience – an ambition to create something stand-out and wow.  It means briefs can come in direct from retailers, or from their branding and creative partners.  But turning these ideas into reality involves capturing the idea and committing it to visuals and drawings – to put form to ambition. Getting the right detail, genuinely understanding objectives and being able respond creatively and accurately to the requirement is what customers crave.

  • Challenge the brief 

The aspiration for any project provides a guiding light in terms of direction – but in high traffic retail environments, where cost is always a driving factor – there are a host of practical considerations to be taken into account. Durability of materials, quality of finish, the lifetime of the scheme, the likelihood of wear-and-tear. A partner that takes time to challenge the brief and to really value engineer a solution to find the optimum balance between cost and quality provides a genuine point of difference. Going beyond the value of the project invoice to consider the lifetime value of the goods produced can help retailers make smarter strategic choices on their interior displays and fit-outs.

  • Create a working prototype

Seeing an idea in action ahead of volume production is a critical stage in the process – and one that our clients tell us they really value.  Detailed one-off prototypes, built at our place, at the client’s HQ or in a pilot store environment – allow a valuable opportunity to see and feel the materials and finishes. To test (and stress test) functionality and to merchandise to make sure that overall display and impact is on-point.

2. Make it right, or not at all. 

Our clients talked about how they want value adding when choosing the best way to achieve the desired output. Balancing manufacturing and sourcing options in ways that make most sense, depends upon the project priorities for speed, quality and cost.

  • Scope and cost the project

Getting really close to the customer’s objectives in-order to scope and cost the project accurately sits right at the heart of a successful engagement. Understanding cost, quality and speed to complete are all central drivers that guide decision making and planning for optimum delivery.  Having expert resource with the skill to engage, challenge and add value at this critical stage will pave the way for smooth running at every stage that follows. Ensuring expectations are properly scoped, managed and fulfilled is what our customers tell us sets the bar for success and for strong, long-term client relationships.

  • Manufacture

Supply chain and sourcing are some of the hottest topics in business today.  For us our UK manufacture has always been a bonus for clients desiring responsiveness, visibility, control and quality for their project fulfilment. But our ability to source and manufacture locally with skill, speed and reliability has never been more important as global supply chains have become stressed and fragmented.  Increasingly our customers are looking for confidence in local manufacture and supply – we tick the box for both.

  • Source

In spite of current disruption to global supply, there continue to be instances where activating a global supply network can offer significant cost savings for projects with long-lead times.  Working with overseas supply partners who are tried, tested and trusted for quality and ability to deliver, lends an extra dimension to what is possible in a blended approach to project delivery. Here at Nuttall, rollouts can begin immediately via UK manufacture, delivering much-needed speed to market, which we then compliment with global sourcing at the appropriate stage, to deliver additional cost benefits.  Clients tell us it’s good to have choices and options that put them in control.

3. Manage it ALL

An emerging trend and focus for our bigger retail clients is the desire to outsource entire projects. Leaning on our teams as Principal/Main Contractor, allows them to focus on their core business whilst we focus on ours to get the job done well.  Consolidation and logistics, installation and the quality of the project management itself were all key areas of note.

  • Plan and organise logistics

Bringing parts together, building, consolidating and dealing with logistics for effective transfer to install locations is another point in the end-to-end process where meticulous thought and planning pays dividends.  Having a partner with space, capacity, systems and know-how to organise components for flawless delivery is a definite advantage.  What can go wrong, will go wrong – unless each and every aspect is considered, marshalled, co-ordinated and managed at the point of dispatch.

  • Fit

Fast, efficient and expert install has always been important to busy retailers.  Out-of-hours fitting, or installs managed with zero disruption to trade is what every store manager wants to hear.  Now with added complications of keeping colleagues, contractors and end customers covid-safe, stringent site security and H&S measures are the order of the day, along-side well-managed work, in-the-moment problem solving and methodical attention to detail at the point of completion and handover.

  • Project management

Our clients have always valued our comprehensive project management capability – but increasingly we’re finding our customers are asking for full end-to-end, Principal Contractor support. They want to hand projects over in their entirety – relieving the pressure and stress of managing the complexity of multiple vendors into one single, well-executed solution.  Defined by top-notch planning, accreditations around all aspects of compliance and exemplary communication, we’ve responded to clients’ needs and our Team now extends to fulfil our customers’ end-to-end requirements, on demand.  However, we are equally happy to manage our part of the project, working seamlessly alongside other vendors or Principal/Main Contractors, where our retailers want us to slot into existing arrangements.

Having researched our clients’ requirements exhaustively and looking at our business’ proven and core capabilities, we created PRISM – our process for end-to-end project management.  Applying the power of 3, PRISM clearly shows our strengths in designing, making and installing fabulous retail schemes – from one-off concept stores to vast whole-estate roll outs.

These end-to-end capabilities, combined with our in-house skills for manufacture and global sourcing, plus the capability and capacity of our Dudley facility have seen us perfectly positioned to raise our hands and take Principal Contractor roles on many of our recent client projects.  But we’ve always been flexible. The real gift of PRISM is that our customers can engage with us for whichever parts of the process meet their needs or challenges – building in the flexibility and collaborative approach that give clear benefits in today’s challenging and volatile trading conditions, where agile responses are often required.

If you would like to take a look at a short video of PRISM in action, you can watch it here.

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