I carry in my head scenarios for two retailers, OldRetail and NewRetail. Picture the scenes at their board meetings this week.

I carry in my head scenarios for two retailers, OldRetail and NewRetail. Picture the scenes at their board meetings this week.

OldRetail is a mature business that has been in existence for more than 30 years with a board of directors mainly in their 50s. It has 250 stores and a website that launched three years ago.

The meeting deals with the normal agenda including trading, the chief executive and chief finance officer’s reports, operational updates, and then moves onto the subject of the store estate. This topic dominates the OldRetail meeting.

Many of OldRetail’s stores are performing well. Typically these stores are located in various parts of London, large city centres such as Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham, and major retail shopping centres such as Bluewater and the Trafford Centre.

However, there is a big issue with what is becoming an increasing tail of underperforming stores. Fifteen stores have already been closed but no one is interested in taking on the leases.

There are also 40 stores that OldRetail would really like to close if only it could be certain that someone would take on the lease.

Finally the board reviews the watch list, comprising 45 stores performing satisfactorily at present but, because a number of other retailers in the vicinity have closed, there is a feeling that customer footfall is going to diminish in that particular high street or shopping centre.

In the final hour of the meeting, the OldRetail board reviews the performance of the website, where sales are up more than 50%. However, many board members find the ecommerce director’s presentation rather confusing, so they decide to ask their children about it when they get home.

Over at NewRetail’s board meeting it’s a very different scene - a much smaller business with 10 stores and a website that has been in existence from the start of the company in 2008.

Members of the executive team are in their 30s, having joined the company after leaving full-time education or after spending a few years at another retailer.

The NewRetail board meeting has a similar agenda but the emphasis is very different.

There are no plans to close any stores as each location is performing well. There are numerous opportunities for new stores but the board is firm that it will only commit where there is an appropriate level of property costs and the footfall is strong.

The bulk of the NewRetail meeting is devoted to discussing the website.

The conversation covers customer engagement, service improvements and product range and includes topics such as CRM, web analytics and current social media trends.

The people around the table can have an active debate because they have grown up in the digital world.

So this is where the real growth opportunities lie. NewRetail, with its strong, defined proposition and an executive team from the internet’s first generation, is going to grow its business, whereas OldRetail is going to have to fight to maintain its existence.

  • Peter Williams is non-executive director of Asos and a former chief executive of Selfridges