Ao.com founder John Roberts said retailers had a responsibility to “give back to the community” and it made business sense to help tackle social disparity.
“I believe passionately that businesses have a responsibility to give back to the communities they take a lot from,” Roberts told delegates at Retail Week Live.
The former chief executive, who handed the reins to Steve Caunce last month and became executive director of the business he founded in 2000, said: “Retail has a huge amount to gain from tackling societal disparity because businesses do better where there is better social cohesion.
“People avoid a retail park where there is a load of kids with hoodies hanging around.”
The value of apprenticeships
Roberts extolled the virtues of apprenticeship schemes and admitted he would rather employ a person with passion than someone with “all the qualifications”.
“We have a ‘grow your own talent’ philosophy,” he said. “Somebody with passion who cares about the business will give a customer a much better experience.”
He added that retail is “one of the few industries where you can start out with no qualifications whatsoever and work up to the boardroom.”
But giving someone a job was “just the beginning,” he said.
“If someone joins as an apprentice, and grows with the business, they will, for life, be committed and loyal”
“Having a job is an opportunity, a start. But if a warehouse manager, for example, takes someone under their wing and makes them feel valued, they can move up and up and up.
“If someone joins as an apprentice, and grows with the business, they will, for life, be committed and loyal.”