Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of Ocado and Fat Face, has said that staying half a step ahead of customers is essential if a retailer is to be successful.

Rose, former chief executive of Marks & Spencer, said that in the last few years consumers have been ahead of businesses so “we have to keep moving and keep innovating”.

Speaking at the BRC Retail Symposium, Rose said when he started in retail in 1971 he was taught the customer is king, but now “the customer is the master of the universe”.

He said Apple had stayed half a step ahead of the customer for the last 20 years. “You walk into one of their shops and want something you didn’t realize you wanted. That’s clever.”

He said product, service and environment are the three components of good retailing.