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Bob Jarrett, bira membership and marketing director at the British Independent Retailers Association office opening
By Bira

Robert Jarrett says a fond fare-well to the association

Bob Jarrett

After 26 years with bira and its predecessors, Bob Jarrett, bira’s membership and marketing director, is saying a fond farewell to the association (and his Jaguar!).

So Bob, you’ve been retiring for a few years now. Are you definitely going this time?

Yes, definitely! My wife Judy has been very understanding about extending it for as long as I have, but I can’t rely on that support much longer! I did intend to leave some time ago, but I like to make a contribution, so as bira has needed me, I’ve stayed!

What’s the plan for retirement?

I’m looking forward to driving fewer miles, the commute to Birmingham from Cambridgeshire has taken its toll. I’m very grateful that bira supported what has sometimes been a six-hour round trip to and from work. My new mode of transport is going to be an aeroplane though! I have a bucket list of countries to visit.
I plan on doing an intensive language course in Italian. I’m not sure if my brain capacity will cope with this, but I’m going to give it a go. Golf and cycling are also on the cards. I’d like to do some work in the voluntary sector too as I’m a big animal lover.
It goes without saying that I’ll also be spending plenty of time with my grandchildren Felicity (7) and Hermione (9).

What have been your highlights working for bira?

I’ve enjoyed being one of the team – I’m not one for hierarchy. At times you need to take the lead with difficult decisions, but my management style has always been to earn the team’s trust and be open. I have an open-door policy and have always made time for people. There have been highs and lows but we always come out better in the end. We are stronger because of the lows. You are only as good as those you work with and that has never been truer than with my previous PA, Sue Howe, who I have worked along-side since she started at the BSSA in 2003. I’m also really grateful for Kate Godber’s support in recent months.
As well as the staff, I’ve made a lot of friends in the independent sector and I am indebted to this community, which has helped me develop my career.

But this wasn’t what you always wanted to do?

No! I was set on being a professional footballer. I played for Luton Town in their junior ranks until I injured my knee, which I eventually had to get replaced. My dreams well and truly came crashing down, although in truth it probably never would have happened.

How did you finally end up at the BSSA/bira

From starting in the legal profession to joining the National Federation of Clay Industries to an HR role in a house building company, all my jobs have stood me in good stead for where I am now. I knew for a senior level role I needed commercial and HR experience. I joined the British Shops & Stores Association (BSSA) in 1992 as company secretary.
Following the BSSA/BHF merger in 2009, Alan Hawkins gave me the title of professional services & special projects director, which was just a sneaky way to get me to do all the random jobs no one else wanted. I should have known better! However, it turned out well. My last “special projects” were the Bristol Road refurbishment and being marketing and membership director since last year.

Who has inspired you?

Lots of people have left a lasting mark, especially my co-directors and those I have met as part of developing the services portfolio. I don’t want to embarrass anyone or miss anyone out, but I’d like to pay tribute to my friend Deven Thakrar, former CEO of Ellis Whittam. He is someone who given a mandate to succeed in three years will make sure it happens.
(Oxford Summer School MD) Dom Prendergast also is someone that I have looked up to, with all of his experience and knowledge within retail. The OSS is a crown jewel for bira and it should be really treasured.
Independent retailers who continue to succeed, despite all the challenges, have continually inspired me too. I’ve served the industry for as long as I have because of our members.

Personally speaking

Hobbies: I’m a big Fulham fan and a season ticket holder, so I’ll continue to enjoy my football now we are in the Premier League. (Sorry, John Collins and James Weavin, the poor Villa fans at bira HQ!) Otherwise I enjoy walking, cycling and reading.
Music: I’m a man of varying tastes from blues and jazz to the likes of AC/DC and Rod Stewart.
Food: I’m a big Italian fan but also enjoy a good Chinese or Thai.

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