Retailers are always on the lookout for the next big thing and, in this new series, the buying teams of high street giants Boots, Habitat and Liberty are prepared to take an enormous gamble by asking members of the public to supply them with their next best-selling products. By staging three unique open days, Britain’s Next Big Thing offers unknown designers and producers the chance of a lifetime: to pitch directly to the retail industry’s power brokers in an attempt to get their products stocked in these prestigious stores.
Over six months, retail entrepreneur and “Dragon” Theo Paphitis follows both buyers and suppliers as they experience the highs and lows of bringing a product to market, from initial pitch to shop shelf. Many won’t make the grade but, for a lucky few, it will be a life-changing experience.
Theo explains: “The open days held by Liberty, Boots and Habitat are a fantastic opportunity for the untried, hopeful suppliers to meet the buyers. It really is an opportunity of a lifetime. This is a real fast track into retail.”
As the series begins, iconic department store Liberty throws open its doors to the public at 6am for an exclusive open day. Six hundred people get up early to queue around the block for the opportunity to pitch their products to the buying team, led by buying director Ed Burstell. The commercially inexperienced artisans are given just three minutes to pitch their wares to the team and only a handful makes it through to a second round with Burstell, whose decision is final.
Among the fledgling suppliers are: former carpenter Tom Hopkins-Gibson, who has travelled down from Scotland with his porcelain and wooden bowls; professor of architecture, Richard Weston who dazzles the buyers with his unique silk scarves; and glass-blower Charlotte Sale.
Meanwhile, at Boots HQ in Nottingham, the buying team gets ready for its open day, vetting hundreds of applications to shortlist just 10 potential suppliers to fill the gaps in the £26bn health and beauty market.
Tuesday 12 April
8.00-9.00pm BBC TWO