Retail Week’s 18th annual celebration of the UK’s 100 most influential leaders has landed. With more new entries than ever before, the index recognises eight Disruptors who are shaking up the industry. Meet some of them below
Sarah Boyd, UK managing director, Sephora
It has been an incredible nine months for Sarah Boyd, who has led the French beauty brand’s return to the UK after its 17-year hiatus.
Boyd – who was promoted in January, having served as Sephora’s managing director of Southeast Asia and Oceania for two years – is overseeing Sephora’s UK store revival, starting with its Westfield London White City flagship, which opened in March.
The store – which followed the retailer’s UK website launch last October – is spread across 6,000 sq ft, offers products from more than 135 brands and hosts talks, makeup workshops and masterclasses with beauty experts.
Five thousand customers queued on the store’s opening day and in April the retailer revealed the store was performing “300% better than expected”.
Boyd is now gearing up to launch Sephora’s second UK store – this time at Westfield Stratford City – in November and is sending shockwaves across the UK health and beauty market.
Boots, for instance, has been going on the offensive and amping up its beauty credentials, with the launch of a beauty-only store in London’s Battersea Power Station in the works.
Jens and Emma Grede, co-founder and chief executive and founding partner, Skims
Kim Kardashian may be the face of shapewear brand Skims, yet it is entrepreneurial husband-and-wife duo Jens and Emma Grede – co-founder and chief executive and founding partner respectively – who are the driving forces in the retailer’s growth.
And what an ascent it has been. Launched in 2019, originally under the name Kimono, the retailer has gained a legion of fans – 5.2 million on Instagram alone – for its high-quality supportive underwear, shapewear and loungewear range.
In July, Skims gained a $4bn (£3.09bn) valuation following its latest Series C funding round of $270m (£208.8m) and is on track to reach net sales of $750m (£580.2m) in 2023.
Skims is not the first venture for the Gredes, both former advertising executives, with Jens the founder of denim label Frame and co-founder of technical apparel brand Brady, while Emma is founder and former chief executive of Khloé Kardashian-backed jeans brand Good American.
With Skims named among Time magazine’s most influential companies of 2023, the Gredes are preparing to open the brand’s first standalone UK store by the end of 2024. The industry will be watching closely.
Mark Smithson, founder and chief executive, Marks Electrical
Making his Retail 100 debut as a disruptive force in the industry is Marks Electrical founder and chief executive Mark Smithson.
Smithson started his business more than 35 years ago, selling second-hand cookers out of his dad’s garage, and has gradually scaled up the business.
Now based out of a 200,000 sq ft warehouse in Leicester, Smithson’s online model has been using value pricing on big brands and free next-day delivery to steadily garner market share from the likes of AO and John Lewis.
Smithson has steered growth over what has been the toughest financial period in recent UK history – announcing 30.7% sales growth to £36.2m for the four months to July 2023 and increasing its major domestic appliances share from 2.4% to 3%.
Marks Electrical is also one of the few retail IPOs that has not disappointed since listing on the AIM London Stock Exchange in November 2021.
Smithson’s focus for the year ahead is growing brand awareness, enhancing product range and improving availability so he can bring even more fight to the sector’s biggest players.
Find out who else features among the Disruptors and view the full Retail 100 here. Be inspired by the leaders changing the way the industry thinks, operates and sells, and discover:
- If you or your colleagues have made the index
- Which new entries are driving retail forward – and what strategies are paying dividends
- The people champions, sustainability activists and experience innovators shaping the future
- The inspiring ‘ones to watch’ for 2024