Nick Bubb (left). Chairman of the Debrett's 500 Retailers sector. With brother Sir Stephen Bubb, member of the Debrett's 500 Healthcare sector.
Chairman: Nick Bubb
The UK may not, famously, be “a nation of shop-keepers”, but retailing is certainly an important industry in this country, employing some three million people. The retail industry has an increasing international presence and many of our retailing leaders, in both the food and non-food sectors, are respected figures around the world. The Debrett’s selection includes the leaders of some of the biggest and most successful businesses in the sector, as well as some influential retail entrepreneurs and online innovators.
Nick Bubb is a graduate of Christ Church Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics and economics. In a City career spanning over 30 years, he worked as a retail analyst for firms such as Scrimgeours, Morgan Stanley and SG Securities. He is now an independent commentator on UK retailing, the retail consultant to Zeus Capital and the author of The Daily Retailer.
The Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise. CEO Next
Retail guru Simon Wolfson is the CEO of Next. As a business, Next continues to deliver its goods in an impressive fashion thanks to its consistent multi-channel expertise and stable management. Wolfson is credited with this success. As an authority in the industry, Wolfson regularly provides detailed commentary on the economic outlook and was one of the first businessmen to predict the economic crisis. A supporter of transparency, he gives quarterly updates on the movement in Next’s weekly sales. Wolfson became the youngest chief executive of any FTSE 100 company when he accepted the position at Next in 2001.
Justin King, CBE. CEO J Sainsbury plc
The ebullient Justin King is CEO of Sainsbury’s. When he assumed the role, the supermarket was in disarray: its second-place spot had been stolen by Asda, its shelves were empty and its food quality had dropped. With King on top, in November 2013 profits were up 9.1% from 2012 and the supermarket has regained its position as the second largest UK supermarket. King has always been inspired by sporting heroes: “In my youth, it was Ian Botham who inspired with his win at all costs, and against the odds fighting spirit.” King is certainly driven, growing Sainsbury’s sales ahead of the market and driving the outperformance of the business. A persuasive advocate of Sainsbury’s values, King is becoming an increasingly good spokesman for the industry.
Sir Charlie Mayfield. Chairman John Lewis Partnership
Now chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sir Charlie Mayfield joined the company in 2000 as head of business development. He was appointed to the Board a year later as development director. Having masterminded the group’s investment in Ocado, he was appointed managing director of John Lewis Department Stores in 2005 before being made chairman in 2007. Whilst most retailers cut back in the eye of the recession’s storm, John Lewis continued with its investment plans, using the fact that other businesses were reducing their activity to push themselves ahead. In the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Mayfield was given a knighthood for his services to business.
Sir Ian Cheshire. CEO of Kingfisher
Sir Ian Cheshire is the CEO of Kingfisher, Europe’s leading home improvements retail group. Growing up in Borneo with an early understanding of how important the world’s ecosystems are to us, Cheshire states that this was instrumental in him “steering a business that would one day be able to put something back.” Cheshire has worked with the group since 1998 and has been CEO since January 2008, having previously been MD of the B&Q business. He currently holds the position of chairman of the British Retail Consortium, the industry body in recognition of his influential status within the industry. Cheshire won The Guardian Sustainable Business Leader of the Year Award in 2012.
Sir Charles Dunstone. Chairman Carphone Warehouse
Retail chief Sir Charles Dunstone is the chairman of Carphone Warehouse. Dunstone founded the business in 1989 and has done much to drive the development of the mobile phone industry and the evolution of Carphone Warehouse into a retailer of connected devices and services. He is also the chairman of the telecoms business Talk Talk. Dunstone was one of the earliest entrepreneurs to spot an opportunity in the emerging phone retail market: shops where the public could buy and importantly gain advice on how to work the bricks of the 1990s. As the relevance of the high street declines, Dunstone is likely to be one of the few to retain ranking.
Sir Philip Green. CEO of Arcadia
Sir Philip Green is the CEO of the fashion conglomerate Arcadia Group, which includes well-known high street brands such as Topshop, BHS, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins. Green left school at 15 and started work at a shoe importer. By the age of 23 he had established his first fashion business, importing jeans from the Far East. Today, Sir Philip now controls an empire of over 3000 shops on five continents, and was ranked 16th in the 2013 Sunday Times Rich List. He also sponsors the NEWGEN scheme, which fosters and promotes new talent through the British Fashion Council.
Nick Robertson, OBE. CEO of ASOS
Nick Robertson is the founder and chief executive of ASOS, a global online fashion and beauty retailer which advertises 50,000 branded and own label product lines. Founded in 2000, this serious fashion player has over 13.6 million unique visitors a month. The company is considered to be one of the most successful retailers of recent times and it has successfully expanded internationally. In October 2013, Robertson awarded his staff a £2.8 million bonus, which he covered personally, after the brand boasted strong full-year results. The site is now valued at £1.3 billion.
Mike Ashley. Founder and deputy chairman Sports Direct
Entrepreneur Mike Ashley, the founder and deputy chairman of Sports Direct, built his retail empire up by acquisition and has propelled it into the ranks of the FTSE 100 index. His career in retail began in his teens when his parents lent him £10,000 to open his own shop, Mike Ashley Sports. Thanks to Ashley’s business acumen, the chain expanded quickly. By 1990 he had three outlets; over the next decade, he acquired 100. 25 years after starting the company, Ashley floated it on the stock market, making the brand founder £925 million over night. Now a FTSE 100 company, Sports Direct has joined the ranks of Tesco, Barclays Bank and BP.
Terry Duddy. CEO of Home Retail
Terry Duddy has been the CEO of the large retailer Home Retail, the parent to Argos and Homebase, since 2006. He has steered the group through the fierce recession and out the other side, successfully re-focusing the businesses on digital channels. In the Amazon age, an impressive job has been done by Duddy in preserving the influence of the company. Due to leave Home Retail next July, Duddy has been one of the longest serving chief executives in the industry, thus giving him a wealth of invaluable expertise and influence over the sector.
Paul Marchant. CEO of Primark
The former chief operating officer of fashion retailer New Look, Paul Marchant joined Primark in 2009 and was soon promoted to the position of CEO. Marchant moved into retail the moment he left school, working for a number of brands such as Topshop and River Island before joining Primark. Primark plays an integral and influential role in the retail industry and under Marchant’s guidance the business has continued to grow into a major force in discount fashion, both at home and overseas. In recent years, Primark has entered into an aggressive expansion programme, opening 20 stores in 2012, which has further promoted the fashion giant’s growth.
The Hon Sebastian James. CEO Dixons
Sebastian James joined Dixons in 2008 and, having worked on some of the customer service improvement initiatives in the Currys business, he was promoted to CEO in February 2012. In this role he has successfully sorted out the group’s operations in Southern Europe and benefited from the demise of UK rival Comet. James has wide-ranging experience of the retail world. He was the strategy director at Mothercare plc, where he is credited with developing and initiating the company’s turnaround strategy in 2003. As the CEO of one of the largest electronics distributors in Europe, James is well placed to influence and control the future of that sector of the retail industry.
Hash Ladha. Chief operating officer Oasis Fashions
As chief operating officer of Aurora Fashions, the parent to the likes of Oasis and Karen Millen, Hash Ladha has done pioneering work on the concept of multi-channel retailing. He is responsible for inventing the idea of “omni-channel”. Joining the company in 2010 from the pioneering e-tailer ASOS, Ladha has played an integral role in driving Aurora Fashions to become a leader in the industry. It is Ladha’s creative and pioneering approach that is allowing the brand to challenge its competitors in the industry. Ladha is a popular commentator and voice of retail authority.
Tim Steiner. CEO of Ocado
Having co-founded the online grocer Ocado in 2000, Tim Steiner has overseen its development into a major force in the market and has been able to exploit Ocado’s technical expertise by partnering with Morrison’s to help it start up its own online operation. After 13 years, Ocado has an annual turnover of nearly £800 million. It has more than 360,000 customers and 7,000 employees with its delivery vans reaching around 72% of UK households. Ocado was the top-performing share in London in the first six months of 2013. Having struck a deal with Morrisons in 2013, in addition to its arrangement with Waitrose, Ocado is continuing to expand in the retail market.
Mark Price, CVO. Managing director Waitrose
Mark Price grew up in Crewe, the son of a corner shop owner who went on to set up his own wholesale business. The young Mark would help his father with the customer rounds, setting him on the path to his own career in retail. He joined John Lewis as a graduate trainee, working his way up the business. He was made managing director of Waitrose in April 2007 and has seen it develop into a highly successful force at the upper end of the supermarket industry. Under Price’s careful and experienced guidance, the supermarket is competing with the likes of Sainsbury’s and Tesco with regard to branded goods.
Andy Street. Managing director John Lewis Department Stores
Gentleman retailer Andy Street has spent all his working life in the John Lewis Partnership. After store director roles at John Lewis Milton Keynes and Bluewater, he was appointed to the Partnership Board as director of personnel in 2002, before becoming managing director of the John Lewis Division in February 2007. Under his leadership John Lewis has become a major online retailer, and even in the middle of the recession John Lewis continued to make successful returns. Street is also heavily involved with promoting business and enterprise in Birmingham.
Kate Swann. CEO SSP
The prominent retail executive Kate Swann is the CEO of SSP, the travel food group which encompasses Millie’s Cookies and Upper Crust among others. Having been the successful CEO of WH Smith for ten years, where she masterminded a dramatic improvement in the profitability of the retailer’s High Street Division and pioneered the expansion of its Travel Division, Swann was swiftly snapped up by SSP. At WH Smith, she transformed the company from a £72 million pre-tax loss in her first interim results in April 2004 to a £69 million profit in her last set of results in 2013. With her reputation as a money-saver and business reformer, Swann has huge power at SPP.
Dalton Philips. CEO Morrison’s
Dalton Philips’s childhood was spent on the family poultry farm in Ireland. He studied at University College Dublin before beginning his retail career with Jardine Matheson in New Zealand. After completing an MBA at Harvard Business School, Philips spent seven years with Wal-Mart Stores before moving on to the Weston group in 2005. He was appointed CEO of the Morrison’s supermarket chain in early 2010, and in this role Philips has used his global experience to remedy Morrison’s legacy weaknesses in the online grocery and convenience store markets. He has also transformed the supermarket’s brand and strategy, particularly its fresh food offerings, allowing the retailer to challenge its competitors for a share of their market.
Christopher North. Managing director Amazon UK
Christopher North has been the managing director of Amazon UK since early 2011. Considered one of the most influential figures in online retail, North has overseen Amazon’s continued pervasive growth throughout his premiership. Taking the reins in difficult circumstances, North has steered the online giant through the storm and it has weathered well. Having graduated from Harvard University with a degree in economics, North’s mathematical and analytical skills stand him in good stead within the retail world.
Laura Wade-Gery. Multi-channel and e-commerce director of Marks & Spencer
Laura Wade-Gery joined Marks & Spencer from Tesco, where she had run both Tesco.com and Tesco Direct and oversaw a 16 per cent increase in the supermarket’s dotcom sales. Wade-Gery joined the Board of Marks & Spencer in July 2011 to spearhead M&S’s drive to become a credible multi-channel retailer, in an increasingly important field. She is leading the company’s £1 billion sales strategy in an attempt to turn the web into M&S’s flagship store. With her considerable consumer and retail experience, the high-flyer is reforming the brand for an inspiring future.
Chris Bush. Managing director Tesco UK
As managing director of Tesco UK, the nation’s biggest retailer, Chris Bush holds a position of huge power and responsibility in British retail. Bush began his career in 1982 as a shelf stacker and has remained with the company ever since, taking on his current role in 2013. He is responsible for all Tesco’s UK stores and its distribution network, as well as ensuring Tesco stays ahead in what is a highly competitive market. His first year in the role has brought a number of successes for Bush, including Tesco selling out of its own-brand computer tablet.