Alan Giles, former chairman at Fat Face, speaks to Retail Week about his life working in retail.

What was your first job in retailing?

I was the buyer for beauty and wash bags at Boots.

Which retail company do you admire most and why?

Despite the business’ difficulties, I have to say Tesco. It has a track record of innovation, internationalisation and product development.

What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?

I do have a reputation for being a grammatical pedant, which served me well when I was managing director of Waterstones, but I think it has irked colleagues ever since.

Who have you learnt most from in your retail career?

Steve Russell, who was chief executive of Boots. I worked with him twice in my career, at Boots and Do It All.

What advice would you give someone starting out in retail?

Always keep on the steep part of the learning curve. Make sure you are in a job where you are maximising your rate of personal growth.

What keeps you awake at night?

The results of Reading FC.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Seeing young people who have worked for me come through in senior jobs.

What’s your proudest achievement?

The flotation of HMV in 2002 from difficult origins.

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

Research physicist.

What’s your favourite shop and why?

Rei, a US outdoor retailer with fantastic range authority and expert staff in every department.

What was your last purchase?

A barrel of Hoppit real ale from the Loddon brewery shop.

Why are you looking forward to Retail Week Live 2014?

I think after five or six years of the economy being in a dark tunnel there is some prospect we are coming out of that. It is a fantastic opportunity for us to recalibrate where successful innovation might come from.