Ning Li, Co-founder and chief executive at, speaks to Retail Week about his life working in retail.

Ning Li

What was your first job in retailing?

My first ecommerce company, MyFab, when I was 25.

Which retail company do you admire most and why?

Zara. It’s the first fashion retailer to make high fashion accessible to everyone thanks to its integrated supply chain.

Like us, it believes in making great design accessible and we both create collections at a fraction of the time and cost of our competitors.

What’s your management approach?

In retail the devil is in the detail, so I get pretty passionate about it.

Who have you learnt most from in your retail career?

Our customers. Their feedback is a goldmine for learning about the business and how to improve. I allocate time every day to read their comments.

What advice would you give someone starting out in retail?

The importance of data - it influences everything. Instinct is vital, but to grow you must have the ability to report and interpret the figures.

What keeps you awake at night?

My BlackBerry.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

That we’ve built the business by developing the team. We’re only ever going to be as good as the people we employ.

What’s your proudest achievement?

The growth of Made. We passionately believe that it’s a brand that has the potential to become a household name -we’ve changed the way people shop for furniture.

What job would you have done if you hadn’t become a retailer?

Still an entrepreneur, but in another consumer-facing sector.

What’s your favourite shop and why?

Sticking with online, it has to be Amazon. The choice of products and customer experience is pioneering.

What was your last purchase?

A vintage side table on eBay and some Legend chairs from for my new flat.