The Retail Week Power List demonstrates that the retail industry continues to be an extraordinary breeding ground for some of the UK’s most innovative leaders.

We have come to expect a great deal from our leaders in retail.

Partly that’s history. Retail has always been an industry coloured by charismatic, bold and high-profile personalities from the likes of Jack Cohen to Noel Lister, many of which have now passed into retail folklore and filling their shoes is no easy task. But it is circumstance too. The spotlight of expectation that shines on those at the top of their organisations is never fiercer than in difficult economic times. And more than four years of tough trading and fragile consumer confidence have tested the mettle of every retail leader.

Retail Week Power List

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It is an environment that has taken its share of casualties and with it the reputations of previously well-regarded store chiefs. But as this Power List demonstrates, the retail industry continues to be an extraordinary breeding ground for some of the UK’s most innovative leaders - although the lack of women executives in our top 20 should cause concern.

And, while the ongoing resilience of the sector in the face of those economic headwinds is testament to the talents of these 100 names, drawing out comparisons and common threads is no easy task from such a wide range of characters, operating in often very different organisations. Nonetheless there are commonalities in the leadership styles on show in these pages and the achievements they have delivered in the past 12 months.

The first is an ability to make sense of the fast changing environment retailers operate in. The digital and financial disruptive forces that have collided since 2008 have perhaps altered the consumer landscape forever and the most celebrated personalities in our list have been those that have understood the context in which they are now doing business. Allied to that is a clear vision for their organisation’s future, and it is no surprise that our Power List is full of leaders with well-shaped and successful multichannel roadmaps. These capabilities are never better demonstrated than by our top three retailers: Justin King, Lord Wolfson and Philip Clarke. Each has a connection to the needs and behaviours of his consumers and there is a clarity of purpose in their organisations about how to respond to those needs and forge a path towards sustainable organic growth.

Finally, it is important to recognise that even the most celebrated of retail chiefs are fallible and the disciplines those at the top are expected to master continues to grow in complexity and volume. It should be no surprise to see those companies that are recognised as the sector’s standard bearers are often represented more than once on this list, suggesting those leaders with the strongest teams are also our strongest leaders.

Retail Week Power List

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A word from our sponsors

  • Steve Baggi, Co-founder and director, Green Park

Steve Baggi

Steve Baggi

The retail industry is in a state of evolution; with the landscape changing constantly and many organisations experiencing unprecedented transformation.

The prevailing tough economic climate has put increasing pressure on retailers to meet the continual advancement in consumer habits and demands. The requirement for boards to adapt themselves to this alteration means revising operating models to imitate this new world. Ecommerce continues to present itself as a key priority for many
retailers, supported by the transition to a full omnichannel offering.

In addition, global expansion into new markets has sustained the development of an international store portfolio.

International growth, however, requires more than bricks and mortar and takes into account a full multichannel proposition with fully optimised sites, respective language, currency and logistical operations. The pace of global expansion is extraordinary - there’s an ongoing battle to satisfy consumer needs on a global scale. This leaves retailers asking many questions about the future of their leadership teams such as on the structure and types of leaders required at board level.

The skills mix required five years ago is now arguably outdated in this market, as will today’s be in five years from now. The traditional board structure that has been standardised in so many retailers for decades has struggled to adapt. In such an agile and changeable environment, the skills needed to make a board fit for purpose needs to reflect the ever-competitive environment - supporting customer needs with technical expertise and global experience.

In a truly international marketplace, there are three key elements that a board should consist of: diversity - to truly represent its consumers; global perspective - a far greater presence of non-UK nationals demonstrating understanding of a global marketplace; and digital experience.

In examining many of the UK boards today, few have all three and many just one or less. Leaders that surround themselves with such expertise, ultimately become the champions of the retail industry and the future composition of the Retail Week Power List.

Green Park will be partnering with Retail Week to release a White Paper later this year exploring the evolving make-up and structure of a retail board and what impact the new consumer landscape is having on leadership and organisational design.

Green Park’s retail practice collectively boasts more than 50 years’ experience across executive search, management consultancy and interim services. We have a strong track record of supporting the boards of a variety of retailers and have built senior management teams on behalf of a selection of private equity houses.

  • Steve Dukes, Head of PayLater

Steve Dukes

Steve Dukes

Congratulations to everyone included in this year’s Retail Week Power List.

Despite challenging trading conditions, the UK retail industry continues to fight back, with another month of growth in May (up 3.4% from May 2012*).

Those on the list are powering this growth, in an industry that’s not only growing but evolving quickly too. This is, in part, being driven by online innovation, with changes in consumer needs driving the evolution.

Successful retailers, such as those listed here, are quickest to meet the changing needs of their customers. From multichannel support - tablet sales are predicted to exceed laptops this year** - to delivery and payment options, consumers want control, convenience and a level of flexibility that demands constant innovation.

Congratulations again to those who have made this year’s Retail Week Power List - in such a fiercely competitive environment, it’s an achievement to be at the top.

*BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor May 2013
**IDC forecast May 2013

  • Hari Shetty, Vice-president and head of retail, Wipro Technologies

Hari Shetty

Hari Shetty

Shoppers’ habits are evolving and their expectations are rising faster than many retailers can react. In the past the customer’s path to purchase was linear. Now this journey is dynamic and continuous. Customers no longer enter a channel. Instead, they are continuously in the channel.

As long as consumers are in arm’s length of a smartphone, tablet or PC, they are able to participate in any and all components of the channels at the time and place of their choosing. Consumers also move seamlessly between various channel components, both online and physical.

This shift in consumer habits and expectations affects both business-to-business and business-to-consumer relationships, and has strategic implications, not just for marketing activities such as advertising and promotion but also for sales, service and every other function of the channel.

Two of the main challenges for retailers are how to create a single view of the customer across channels and how to create better customer experiences.

Traditional campaign management does not account for the real-time customer interactions. To create a lasting competitive advantage, retailers must have an omnichannel customer experience strategy. The quality of a customer’s interaction across all channel touchpoints is more critical than ever in marketing and advertising today.

Optimising the real-time interaction between the customer, the product and the retailer; and delivering the right message, offer, product, recommendation at the right time via the right channel to the individual - all in real time - is critical.

As customers interact with organisations across physical, digital, and social channels, it is imperative to not only collect behavioural data, but to accurately identify individuals in all touchpoints of the channel, and to generate a holistic view of the customer and their circle of influence.

Through value-driven strategies, Wipro helps retailers do business better by operating seamlessly across channels to create delightful experiences for customers.

Wipro is proud to be an associate sponsor of the Retail Week Power List 2013 and to work with many of the companies included in this year’s list. We look forward to meeting some of this year’s entrants at the Retail Power List dinner in July.