Former Best Buy international director Bob Willett has encouraged retailers to keep international on their agenda.

Al-Futtaim AE group chief executive Bob Willett, former chief executive officer of Best Buy International, warned against hesitation on expanding internationally due to the political unrest across the Middle East and natural disaster in Japan. 

At the Retail Week Conference, Willett said: “I’d expect six months of turbulence, but you don’t go into international thinking in the short term. Don’t believe what you see on the news. Stay away from what you see on the TV and concentrate on the customer.”

Willett said: “You need to harmonise your offer with the country you’re entering. You can’t make your own ideology without putting yourself in the minds and hearts of the people. That’s what didn’t happen when Walmart entered Germany. ”

In terms of making a decision where to expand, he said “If you can’t come into a market, and be first, second or third, then don’t go into it.”

In terms of who to hire in international teams, Willett said:“Give an international team an accelerated career programme and use the talent gained off-shore at home.”

Lush chief executive Andrew Gerrie said to take advantage of the untapped pool of women when hiring internationally. He said that this group tends to be passed over in favour of men in some countries.

Gerrie, that heads up 720 stores across the world, shared Willet’s sentiment of not holding back internationally. He said:“Everything is much more accessible than now than it has been. It is a better time to expand internationally.”