Fortnum & Mason chief executive Ewan Venters is enacting a strategy to improve the iconic London department store’s domestic appeal. Retail Week caught up with him a year after he took up the role.
How have you found the role and can you explain your strategy?
It’s been an exciting year and I gallop into work. I’m a real foodie so it’s the perfect job.
My key focus is to make Fortnum more relevant to domestic consumers. For the last three decades it has been developed into a brand for international shoppers, particularly the Americans and Japanese, and I want the people of London to be curious. We have introduced deals on fresh food and lunchtime offers to make sure we appeal to locals.
You’re opening Fortnum’s first new store for 307 years in St Pancras station. How did that come about?
We are traditionally a business associated with travel. Our hampers came about because the landed gentry of Britain needed a vessel for their products to be delivered to them in their coaches and carriages. We have a presence in Heathrow’s duty free but St Pancras will be our first new standalone store and will open in the first week of November. It’s a 2,000 sq ft unit selling tea and accessories and will also serve tea.
How are you adapting for the digital age?
I’ve hired Zia Zareem-Slade, who was responsible for digital at Selfridges, as customer experience director responsible for online. I’m amazed how much our website takes, it’s the majority of our hamper sales. We have introduced click-and-collect in the last 12 weeks and it’s already 4% of online sales. We will also open a service where you text to say you’re coming to collect and the order is delivered to your car boot by a bell boy. We’re making plenty of changes to the store too – we’ve introduced a shoe shining service at the request of chef Mark Hix and have introduced a new candle shop-in-shop to reflect Fortnums’ roots.
How is trading?
When I joined last August the Olympics really hit footfall but I think the boost that the Olympics and Jubilee gave to London’s profile has shown through this year. Trading this summer has been fantastic.