A high-street champion and digital marketing expert
Described on BBC Look North as “the region’s best-known retail expert”, and by ITV as “a North East Mary Portas”, Graham Soult BA (Hons) MA FIPM, the owner and founder of CannyInsights.com, is a consultant, blogger and media commentator whose experience and interests straddle retail, marketing and the web.
In setting up CannyInsights.com, Graham’s focus is working with retailers and businesses large and small to help them become more successful – whether that’s through understanding their customers better, communicating the right message in their web copy or tweets, or offering a great experience instore.
Ears to the ground
Graham is known for having his “ears to the ground”, and for regularly visiting, observing, photographing and reporting on retail centres across the country.
In fact, Graham has clocked up visits to well over 600 different retail locations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland over the last seven years, building up a unique knowledge bank and a library of 70,000 original photographs of high streets, shopping centres, store interiors and shopfronts.
All this knowledge and material also feeds into Soult’s Retail Report, a monthly update, available by subscription, that provides a detailed picture of what’s going on on the UK high street.
An eye for detail
Graham has over fifteen years’ research experience, in both business and academia, and across a range of sectors.
Prior to setting up his own consultancy, Graham held academic research roles at the Centre for Northern Studies and the Centre for Public Policy at Northumbria University, and spent four years, until August 2010, as Senior Research Executive at Newcastle-based market research agency Marketwise Strategies.
Before his research career, Graham trained as an architect and planner at the University of Sheffield, which has helped nurture his longstanding passion for places, and his keen eye for design and detail.
A respected retail commentator
Outside of research and consultancy, Graham is a regular and respected commentator and writer on retail, the high street, ecommerce, and digital marketing, appearing regularly on TV, on radio, and in the press.
Recent published articles include pieces on content marketing, Twitter lists, effective use of LinkedIn, and the power of business blogging.
A regular speaker at conferences and shows, Graham’s recent talks include a session at International Jewellery London (IJL) at Olympia entitled ‘Jewel Fuel: How to Wow Your Customers on the High Street and Online’, and on ‘Independent retail in market towns – insights from Chester-le-Street’ at the NRRKEC 4th Annual Retail Symposium in Nottingham. He has also presented to organisations such as the Institute of Place Management, National Museums Development Network, North East Shopping Centre Forum (NESCF) and Putney BID.
Graham has built up an extensive network of retail-related contacts, including key influencers within a number of large or expanding store groups, and over 3,500 followers on professional network LinkedIn, ensuring that he is well plugged in to all that is happening in the retail industry.
A leading retail influencer
Thanks to his @soult Twitter account – which currently has over 13,000 followers, and typically gains between 250,000 and 400,000 monthly impressions – Graham has been highlighted as the top retail person in The Journal’s North East Twitterati for three years in a row.
In 2016, he was also named as the UK’s 12th most influential retail person on Twitter in work for Retail Week by ‘social listening’ company Lissted – just two places behind Mary Portas – and retained his top-20 placing in the 2017 update.
In December 2018, retail management software company Vend ranked Graham at number 11 in its list of the Top 100 Retail Influencers for 2019, covering individuals in both Europe and North America, up from 16 the year before.
Graham’s own blog, Soult’s Retail View, was also named by global media intelligence company Cision as the UK’s #2 retail blog (after Retail Week).
In 2018, Graham’s influence and profile was recognised by his election as a Fellow of the Institute of Place Management (IPM), a respected professional body based at Manchester Metropolitan University. Fellow status is only available “to those that have reached a very high level of personal and professional achievement, within the industry” and who “hold a higher degree, have at least 6 years’ practical experience, and can demonstrate that they have had a considerable impact upon place management”.
Meanwhile, Graham also runs CannyInsights.com’s online marketing arm, CannySites.com, which owns and manages five successful and content-rich directory websites.
These sites showcase and work with hundreds of businesses across the fashion, property, interiors, gardening and travel sectors, and promote those sites and retailers across a network of social media channels.
Durham Business Club
CannyInsights.com is a proud member of Durham Business Club, a business networking organisation that runs professional but friendly breakfast and evening events across County Durham and Tyne & Wear.
Membership is affordable, and potential members are welcome to come along and enjoy an event as a guest – for more information, or if you’d like to be Graham’s guest at an upcoming event, just drop him a line.
Graham also sits on the board of Durham Business Group as a Non-Executive Director. Durham Business Group is the umbrella organisation that runs Durham Business Club, the Executive Group for larger corporates, and the virtual office services business Durham Office Services. As a Director, Graham helps to oversee the focus and direction of the Group, and provide the expertise needed to run the business successfully.