Sir James Dyson is often close to the light. The first fortune of the kingdom, with 16.2 billion pounds according to the Sunday Times, had preached for an exit from the European Union. Since the victory of Brexit, he no longer speaks on the subject. No more than on stopping the development of its pharaonic electric car project. Motus and mouth sewn also on the relocation of the company’s headquarters to Singapore at the beginning of 2019. The group nevertheless had a hollow nose. By transforming home appliances with tech products at stratospheric prices, Dyson has managed to build a loyal community. His new projects concern indoor air quality. Video interview, pandemic obliges, with James Dyson.
Challenges – Dyson appears to be focusing in recent years on the development of household humidifiers or air purifiers in an attempt to improve indoor air quality. Why this strategic choice?
James Dyson – I think everyone realizes that what is happening in houses can be just as bad as what is happening outside with pollution from automobile exhaust gases, for example. Some of this pollution enters homes, but there is
also has a lot of other things that create pollution. Dust, dust mites and other components, but also gases from paint, varnish on wooden floors, furniture, or formaldehyde that is released by furniture and even clothing.
There are a lot of things in homes, cleaning products that give off harmful gases, the main one being formaldehyde. Asian countries are already very aware of formaldehyde and its danger. I’ll give you an example, when it comes to a new house or a redecorated house, they will not often move there for 6 months because they are aware of the release of gas and the danger it represents. . Today our houses are very well insulated, so it remains trapped inside.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the traditional sales model. A year and a half ago, you said you wanted to open 300 new stores. Is this still the case or do you now favor online sales?
We continue to open stores. We have opened 20 this year: two in France in addition to the one at the Dyson Demo Store Paris Opéra, one at Parly 2 one in Lyon. Another is planned for Marseille in June. It is a bit against the grain of the culture of some who evoke the gradual death of direct physical sales. We do, but for slightly different reasons. We have products that contain a lot of technology and we have to explain them. People should be able to have the chance to try them out and see our experts demonstrate them.
We want to establish a direct relationship with the customer. We think it’s a lot healthier if the people who are going to use the technology have a direct relationship with the people who designed it for all kinds of reasons. Why buy from a retailer when you can buy it from the person who designs it? Historically, you had your furniture made by someone from the village. You bought your horseshoes from the village blacksmith, your food from the farmer, and your bread from the local bakery. It is by coming back to this that you come back to a healthier direct relationship.
Do you think consumers will return to stores when the pandemic is over?
Some will, yes! Because some purchases are social purchases – something people love to do. But I think more and more people will buy on the internet or hopefully directly from the manufacturer – that’s what we want. For example, we are in the process of creating a virtual store. You can go to our site and enter the store. And when you see a product you like, you can click on it and go straight to the demo – a movie that tells you about the technology and how it is used.
At the start of the pandemic, you announced that you wanted to produce artificial respirators for the UK government. Was the project completed and was it useful?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked me to do this because he saw that we were airflow experts. So we produced 30,000 machines in 6 weeks from scratch. It was a race for the development of technology to solve the problem and make it happen. We did it. We developed a product: a respirator, except the specifications changed while we were making it. It was supposed to be just a fan. Then it was a ventilator that could suck the dirt out of the lungs. And then it became an assisted breathing device as well. As all of these specifications changed, we could still produce the device and we got an order for 10,000 units from the government, but they canceled the order in the end.
We were disappointed because we had worked day and night, 24 hours a day, at the start of the pandemic to make it happen. The engineers went into it, we set up a factory to produce them, we brought in all the equipment, the components, but they decided that putting people on a ventilator was a bad idea. While they expected a lot of people to be put on a ventilator at some point, in fact very few people were.
So we ended up with 10,000 components, 10,000 machines, and a factory that was not producing anything. With engineers who were working, disappointed not to see these devices used by people. Still, I’m really happy it turned out this way – even though we lost £ 20million in this whole adventure – we didn’t make the UK government pay. It was our contribution for the Covid-19.
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