After Bargain Booze Ltd rebranded to become Conviviality Retail ahead of a float, its experienced chief executive Diana Hunter tells Retail Week she has wasted little time in planning for growth.
The differing brand values of Waitrose and Bargain Booze raised eyebrows in the industry when Diana Hunter joined the latter in February however closer inspection of her career would reveal that Hunter is someone who relishes a challenge.
She had been with the upmarket grocer for eight years, most recently as business unit director for convenience, attained her most senior role to date at the off-license chain.
The highly-regarded Hunter grew up in the North East and gained an early enthusiasm for retail from an early age walking the halls of her grandfather’s department store in Darlington.
After forging an early career at a shoe retailer in Middlesbrough, Hunter joined Sainsbury’s graduate programme in 1990.
Hunter spent 13 years with the grocer as it fought the rise of Tesco under Lord MacLaurin and Sir Terry Leahy. She held a multitude of roles including heading up a senior manager transformation programme before eventually departing from the role of head of format development.
Hunter continued to switch positions with regularity while at Waitrose, heading up merchandising for three years, store development for a further three before what will be just over a year in charge of convenience. “She has gained a wealth of knowledge and skills through regularly changing roles. It means you can get a really good helicopter view of a business” a source close to Hunter said.
While at Waitrose, Hunter has carved a reputation as an innovator in store development. Under her stewardship, the grocer has remodelled its supermarket format, launched the Little Waitrose convenience brand, tied up with Shell for service station stores and launched its home offer in its Canary Wharf store. She also developed John Lewis’ food hall.
Hunter says the five months since she joined Bargain Booze have flown and she has taken a hands on role, spending a day a week in store and even working in a store over the busy Easter period.
Bargain Booze chairman Roger Pedder said on her appointment: “Diana has an excellent record of developing high quality retail formats and bringing innovation to the high street. Her skills and experience will further enhance the ability of our management team to drive the business to the next level and offer best-in-class store formats to our franchisees.”
Hunter’s appointment is a bold flag in the ground for Bargain Booze with convenience retailing a strong growth market. She will look to spearhead an entrance on to the Alternative Investment Market, using the targetted £60-65m funding raised to rid the company of debt, incentivise franchisees and expand in the south. She also intends to consolidate the number of fascias the retailer has over the next three years.
Hunter says she makes the most of any spare time she can grab. She says: “Of the moments I can grab I spend them with family and friends and the people that matter.”
The discount off licence chain recorded a 3.9% increase in full-year sales to £395.3m while pre-tax profits slipped 7.7% to £11.5m in the year to April 30, 2012.
Pedder said the retailer is investing in its “consumer research, marketing and merchandising to ensure that Bargain Booze and all of our retail formats have strong customer appeal” and stores guru Hunter has been quick to assess the estate and identify a clear strategy.
A bold plan then, but not one without significant opportunity and responsibility.
2007 to 2012 Waitrose business director for convenience
2007 to 2010 Waitrose director of store development
2004 to 2007 Waitrose head of merchandising
March 2003 to October 2003 Sainsbury’s head of format development
1990 Joins Sainsbury’s
Family, football and travel.