We’re really looking forward to this. We’re headed to Chiswick Park – which we really like.
We’re meeting up with a leading design firm – who we really like. We’re going to see a forward-thinking, dynamic new workspace – which of course we like. And the workspace in question belongs to a world-renowned drinks company. Say no more.
Co-leader in the wines and spirits sector worldwide, Pernod Ricard has also established itself as number one in the Premium segment. The company operates through 80 affiliates and has chosen to focus on sustainable growth through a large portfolio of international brands and a high-end strategy, known as Premiumisation.
Pernod Ricard was created in 1975 through the link-up of two French anise-based spirits companies: Pernod, which was founded in 1805, and Ricard, founded by Paul Ricard in 1932. The aim of this collaboration was to diversify the range of products and capture new, international markets.
Pernod Ricard boats an amazing portfolio of premium international and local brands, including Absolut, Chivas Regal, Malibu, Beefeater, Jameson, Havana Club, The Glenlivet, Perrier Jouét. and wine brands Jacob’s Creek, Campo Viejo and Brancott Estate.
We are met in the stunning reception space by Pernod Ricard Operations Director Phil Corfield, Communications Manager – Corporate, Claire Merrick, and lead designer Beatriz Gonzalez and Projects Director Steve Wright from TTSP.
‘This office is Pernod Ricard UK but we’ve also moved in one of our sister companies – which is Pernod Ricard Travel Retail Europe,’ Phil explains. ‘We do the marketing, sales and distribution of Pernod Ricard brands in the UK – so all the big supermarkets, plus the products that go into pubs, clubs and restaurants. The Travel Retail business specializes in selling the same products but to airports and airlines – places where you can buy duty free – and they cover the whole of Europe.
‘We deal with premium brands and products and we have chosen to focus on sustainable growth through a large portfolio of international brands and a high-end strategy. Globally we have 18 brands in the world’s top 100 drinks brands and we have net sales of approximately Euro 8.5 billion – so I guess you could say we’re a pretty big business.’
The business is not looking to stop there, however. With ambitions to improve those figures and positions in the prestige market, an innovative and dynamic strategy is necessary – as is a working home that fully supports that strategy. Phil also tells us that the company is looking to bring new premium brands into the portfolio – so no resting on laurels and lack of innovative thinking here.
We move on to discuss the key drivers behind both the creation of the new Pernod Ricard UK working home and also the business as a whole. ‘Convivial is a very important word to our business. Convivial, passionate, entrepreneurial, dynamic – these are the words that lead us into talking about this building and what we’ve been trying to create and achieve here in terms of a working environment for our employees and also for people who come and visit us. One of the key design drivers here was that we created the right environment that would allow us to live those words. Our previous office was okay – but didn’t really facilitate those kinds of things.
‘We’re not just here to sell bottles – we’re in the entertainment and conviviality industry and the way we deliver that is through our brands and through the experience. That’s why a lot of our customers invest their time in Pernod Ricard UK. It’s about building those relationships and working in partnership. We want to do things differently from our competitors – and that’s what we mean by conviviality.
‘We were previously in Hounslow, which was a little too far west, although it was handy for Heathrow of course. The reality is that we needed to have the right environment. We talk about Premiumisation, quality and prestige – and if you’re going to bring customers and visitors into your office, you’ve got to have the right office and you’ve got to be in the right environment.
‘You also have to be easy to get to – and we have to be able to get out to our customers easily. We wanted to be closer to the action, as it were, and, with a lot of our clients being in the West End – all those top end bars – we needed to be able to not only reach them easily but also have an environment that demonstrates what we were about.’
‘We’re not just here to sell bottles – we’re in the entertainment and conviviality industry and the way we deliver that is through our brands..’
Phil tells us that the management team took a scientific approach to choosing the right location and space. Having looked at a number of potential locations, with the team being especially mindful of staff retention, Chiswick Park ticked an awful lot of boxes – as anyone who knows this impressive facility will be all too aware.
Looking around us, we are instantly wowed by the use of finishes and materials – in combination with our hosts’ amazing array of brands. ‘What we have here is two key parts to the design; the umbrella brand and the sub-brands within that,’ Steve explains. ‘This is a promotional space and also a workspace. We talked with Pernod Ricard who helped steer how they wanted to work. It was an interesting interaction – working with both the branding teams and then working on the functionality of the space and the IT team here. This is really cutting-edge in terms of IT – this is how the staff here really wants to work.’
‘In terms of the look and feel of the space here we looked at both the heritage of Pernod Ricard and the future,’ Beatriz continues. ‘One of the first items we selected was the whiskey barrels – Jameson supplied 60 barrels and we then found a company in Scotland who works closely with the local community there – with people who have problems integrating into society – and they take these barrels, hand-cut them and then sand each individual ‘cobble’, which are then made into these amazing wall panels. Phil and I had to go to the joinery firm and select each and every cobble! It’s a very interesting material to work with – very random!’
The result is an extraordinary 3D wall. ‘We’ve used these materials throughout the space,’ Beatriz enthuses. ‘We’ve also used recycled bottles for the reception desk and for some of the worktops.’
It becomes immediately clear that, despite the undoubted quality of the finishes and the furniture throughout reception and the adjacent meeting suite, this is also a story with recycling and sustainability at its heart. We learn that the previous tenants, Disney, left plenty for Beatriz, Steve and the team to play with. ‘When we first looked at the space and one of the things we immediately considered was what we could re-use,’ Beatriz tells us. ‘We have tried to keep as much as we could – so we have re-used the partitions and the ceilings, and then we have started to introduce new elements, new design ideas and supplementary products on top of that to make it look a little fresher.
‘Another major element here in reception is the display cabinets. We didn’t want to have large branding in terms of signage – instead we wanted to show the products themselves. In front of that main cabinet we placed the main waiting area – and then we have added to other waiting areas, which also can be used as working spaces, next to the meeting suite.’
As we head through to the meeting suite we can’t help but admire the artwork on the walls here. ‘We are corporate patrons of the Saatchi Gallery and they have kindly lent us some artwork – which we’re able to keep here for the next year,’ Claire explains.
‘The rationale behind the suite itself is that we’ve unified everything by using timber as an intervention,’ Steve shows us. ‘The timber makes it look as though this is a natural suite of rooms – it hangs together as a holistic concept – and then the branding changes in each of those rooms.’
Beatriz explains how, through the use of the brands themselves, cool branded manifestations (the Paul Ricard room and the Jameson room, for example) and different seating, lighting and colour palettes, each of the rooms has its own unique look and feel.
We move through to the main working space here – and having listened to Phil’s explanation of the Pernod Ricard ethos a little earlier – we’re not surprised to find that there is no sudden decrease in the quality of the environment. ‘We have created a corridor which is closer to the core, and you have different types of working located here,’ Beatriz points out. ‘So you can have 1-to-1 meetings, you can have small informal team meetings or you can use the private team and individual booths – you have a variety of work settings.
‘Then, in the open, you go to your locker, collect your hot box and the whole area is divided into departments and you can use any desk within your department. Once a week – on Wednesdays – you can sit anywhere you wish.’
‘One of the big challenges here was to be able to provide the space for people to have their own belongings and everything they needed to be able to work’
‘Some people do like to move around,’ Phil reveals. ‘For example, I’d guess that around a third of people like to move across to the other side of the office on Wednesdays – while other people still like coming back to the same desks and the same area.’
‘For us, it was very important when we started doing the specification of the furniture, to understand how people would use it and what they would need. One of the big challenges here was to be able to provide the space for people to have their own belongings and everything they needed to be able to work – and still give that flexibility and freedom’ Beatriz explains.
‘Your computer is also your phone, so people do now have that freedom,’ Phil agrees. ‘This is a pretty radical change for us. For a start, the desk layout is very different. We now have people facing each other – we used to have L-shaped desks to fit the big computer systems we had and therefore people faced away from one another. We also used to have ad hoc bottles and product displays throughout the office – and now we have bespoke display systems, which work really well.’
We continue to walk around the open office – very aware that time is pressing – and find luxuriant, open breakout areas (and when we say area, we don’t just mean a sofa or two, but a suite of sofas and soft seating), more impressive product displays, smart tea/coffee points and even tasting rooms (we know where we’d place ourselves every Wednesday!) and an amazing full bar and retail outlet experience. As we mentioned a little earlier, the finishes, materials and furniture chosen throughout the space are beautifully considered.
Like the bottle of aged Jameson finest displayed in front of us, this space is classy, smooth, mature and intoxicating. Sláinte!