Meet an expert – James Bartington

How do you get into business development? And what is it? We sat down with James Bartington, Head of Business Development at Harlequin Design (the creators of some of our favourite retail store windows).


I actually started my career working in mobile sales with Orange. I progressed quickly from part-time to store manager within a year, then moved around 5 stores in the region. From there, I moved to LG as a Training Executive – out in the field training store staff as well as being a product ambassador at events. After a year I took another sales position at Interactive Education. Then one day I got a call from a company asking if I’d be interest in a job as an Account Manager at Price & Buckland (which was quite interesting, and a bit different, as they were a school uniform provider). My next position at Alchemis, a new business agency based on Charing Cross Road, was what moved me from Sales into New Business. I’d look after about five or six clients and secure meetings on their behalf – about two or three meetings a month – everything from PR agencies to PPC and SEO, to fashion retail visual merchandising. Harlequin was one of my clients there, and then they took me on internally. So now I work for Harlequin!

I head up Harlequin’s business development – it’s my job to acquire new clients, to interest them in who we are and what we do. I mainly do this through cold calling and trawling LinkedIn to find the right people to talk to. Any method I can use in order to network with people in the industry. Once I’ve acquired a client I get the brief and pass it on to our team of account managers and designers. As much as I’d love to be, I’m not particularly creative!


VM & Display Show 2015 – Harlequin Design

We worked for American Eagle Outfitters recently – I’d seen a small article in Retail Week saying they were looking at coming over to the UK. From there I spoke to about ten different people in the states to try and find out who was responsible for that, presented the company to relevant person and managed to secure an account. We’ve done the two Westfield storefronts for them as well as Bluewater. This is an example of looking for opportunities where international retailers are thinking of moving into the UK market, and then trying to arrange a meeting with them.

A typical day for me involves a lot of time searching on LinkedIn (it’s just as interesting as it sounds) and chasing clients, as well as going out to meetings anywhere from here to internationally. Recently we’ve been to Amsterdam (we just opened an office there), Italy, Spain, and Germany. Our business is growing and we seem to constantly be recruiting in the design office and we’re opening up another factory in Italy in addition to our Hatfield and Shanghai sites.

I think we rode the recession quite well – retailers still need to make shoppers come into stores. They don’t tend to do their visual merchandising in-house except for Liberty. The high street brands usually have in-house designers but not full production capabilities or specialists. We cater to the client in terms of the package and service we provide them – we’ve even received some drawings on napkins before!


Anya Hindmarch Counter Culture – Harlequin Design

 In terms of education an experience, most of my colleagues have university degrees. However, for the position I hold I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary and it is possible to progress with a solid basis of experience. I said to our director the other day – this is the only job I’ve ever had where I get up on a Monday and I don’t mind going to work.


Connect with James on LinkedIn