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Retail

Managing Director, Aldi
Matthew Barnes has been chief executive at Aldi since 2010, taking sole charge in 2015 when his co-chief executive Roman Heini stepped down. Regarded as one of the biggest threats to the ‘big four’ British supermarkets, Aldi now receives a million visitors to its website each week, luring cost-savvy middle-class customers with items such as lobster and £10 champagne. Barnes has been keen to emphasise Aldi’s distinction from its competitor Lidl, describing it as a ‘British business’, unlike the ‘German discounters’. There are currently 620 Aldi stores in the UK, and Barnes is aiming for 1000 by 2022.
Chief Executive, Sainsbury's
Mike Coupe has been chief executive at Sainsbury’s since 2014. He had worked for the supermarket for 10 years when he became boss, joining as trading director and becoming group commercial director in 2010. Coupe is credited with creating the supermarket’s ‘Brand Match’ campaign as well as driving its successful online operations. 2016 saw Sainsbury’s complete a £1.4bn takeover of Home Retail group, the parent company of Argos and Habitat, and Coupe has confirmed plans for Argos to be integrated into the majority of Sainsbury’s stores.
Chief Executive, Trainline
Former eBay vice-president Clare Gilmartin now heads up one of the UK’s most successful digital businesses, trainline.com, which sells a train ticket every three seconds. In 2016 Trainline acquired French travel agency Captain Train and now allows passengers to book rail travel across Europe. Gilmartin hopes to continue making train travel more convenient – next up, she wants to target the 80% of rail travellers who still queue to buy a ticket at a station. She took up the top job at Trainline at 39, when she was six months pregnant.
Managing Director, Amazon UK
Doug Gurr took over as UK managing director at Amazon in 2016, bringing his experience as a director at Asda to the online giant as it continues to expand into groceries. Gurr led Amazon in China for two years prior to taking the helm in the UK, and under his leadership the etailer plans to increase its workforce in this country by 15,000. He has competed in 'about a dozen' Iron Man triathlons - endurance that will stand him in good stead to drive Amazon's relentless march to retail dominance.
UK CEO, Lidl
In September last year, 34-year-old Christian Härtnagel was appointed to replace the outgoing Ronny Gottschlich as CEO of Lidl in the UK. The German discount supermarket, which launched here in 1994, now has 630 UK stores, and Härtnagel plans to increase its portfolio further while investing in infrastructure. Härtnagel joined Lidl as a 21-year-old, and moves to his current role from Lidl Austria, where he was board director.
CEO, Conviviality plc
Former Waitrose director Diana Hunter became CEO of drinks wholesaler and distributor Conviviality plc in 2013. She has since overseen a number of acquisitions, including Wine Rack, Bibendum and Matthew Clark, culminating in a tripling of Conviviality's revenues in the second half of 2016. Described by Imbibe magazine as having 'gifts of forensic analysis' to rival Sherlock Holmes, as well as 'a clear penchant for Getting Things Done', Hunter was responsible for the launch of the Little Waitrose convenience stores while at Waitrose, and prior to that worked at Sainsbury's for 13 years.
Co-founders and Joint CEOs, Boohoo.com
Lifelong entrepreneur Mahmud Kamani teamed up with fashion designer Carol Kane in 2006 to found online fashion retailer Boohoo. The business has grown enormously in the decade since, unveiling another surge in profits last year. It now has around 4.5 million active customers, with plans to expand outside Europe through a bid for US site Nasty Gal. Next, Kamani and Kane are considering an opportunity to acquire rival fashion etailer Pretty Little Thing – which just so happens to be run by Kamani’s two sons, Umar and Adam.
CEO, Tesco
Two years ago Tesco reported the biggest loss in history, but CEO Dave Lewis has delivered a swift programme of stabilisation since he took charge in 2014. He has encountered his share of challenges, most recently in the form of a high profile price dispute with his former employer Unilever, but has implemented a drastic turnaround plan, investing £200 million in cutting prices and improving customer service while closing unprofitable stores. Yorkshire-born Lewis worked at Unilever for 27 years having joined as a graduate trainee, and was responsible for its groundbreaking 'love your body' campaign for Dove.
Managing Director, John Lewis
John Lewis 'lifer' Paula Nickolds began her career with the retailer as a graduate trainee, becoming commercial director a year ago and appointed to managing director in October 2016. The first woman to lead John Lewis in its 152-year history, Nickolds has been described as a people person with a calm demeanour, with chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield paying tribute to her 'progressive and dynamic leadership'. She has recently announced plans to replace some of the space dedicated to haberdashery and millinery at the Oxford Street flagship with more experiential customer offerings such as prosecco bar.
Founder, Missguided
Nitin Passi is the founder of online clothing retailer Missguided, which sells clothes and accessories aimed at young women in 80 countries worldwide. In 2016 the company opened its first physical store, in Westfield Stratford City, with a second planned at Bluewater this year. Passi is the third generation of his family to work in the fashion industry, and on graduating from university, went to work for his father’s company importing and selling clothing for the British high street. Missguided has collaborated on collections with Nicole Sherzinger, and a recent campaign was fronted by Pamela Anderson.
CEO, Co-operative Group
Co-op boss Richard Pennycook made headlines last year when he asked for a 60% pay cut on the basis that, after a two-year programme to rescue the company from a £1.5 billion debt, his job had become less stressful. Pennycook took charge of the group, whose businesses include food retail, financial services and funeral care, in 2014, having joined a year earlier as finance director. He was previously finance director at Morrisons and has credited the Co-op's recovery to the dedication of its 70,000 staff.
CEO, Morrisons
Morrisons returned to profit in 2016 largely thanks to the leadership of David Potts and a deal with Amazon to supply groceries for its fast-growing fresh food service: in certain postcodes, Prime customers can now receive Morrisons deliveries within an hour. Prior to Morrisons, Potts worked for Tesco for almost 40 years having joined at 16. He has invested in shop floor staff at Morrisons, and in November it was announced that the company would revive the Safeway brand – the name of the supermarket it purchased in 2004 – to use on some food it produces and supplies to other retailers.
CEO, Marks & Spencer
Steve Rowe has worked at M&S for 27 years, first joining as a Saturday boy at his local store in Croydon aged 15. He followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming head of the food division in 2012, which thrived under his leadership while other parts of the business struggled. Rowe has already made tough changes during his short time in charge, cutting 500 head office jobs and planning to close stores. With the much-loved high street retailer still underperforming, shareholders will be hoping that Rowe’s ‘near-encyclopaedic’ knowledge of the business will help reverse its recent decline.
Founder and CEO, Hotel Chocolat
Angus Thirlwell is the charismatic CEO of Hotel Chocolat, the company he co-founded with Peter Harris. From a single store in Watford in 2003 there are now more than 80 Hotel Chocolats throughout the UK and Europe. Self-confessed chocolate obsessive Thirlwell tastes every recipe personally and in 2006 Hotel Chocolat started growing its own cocoa in St Lucia. Thirlwell is the son of entrepreneur Edwin Thirlwell who founded KallKwik, ProntaPrint and Mr Whippy. 2016 saw Hotel Chocolat float for £150 million and in the same year it was named Mid-Market Business of the Year at the Lloyds Bank Business Awards.
CEO, Fortnum and Mason
A former director at Selfridges, Ewan Venters has overseen consistent sales growth at ‘posh grocers’ Fortnum’s during his five years in charge, with 2016 seeing record-breaking profits for a third consecutive year. Venters opened the first ever satellite branches of Fortnum’s, at St Pancras, Heathrow airport and in Dubai, and has improved the appearance of the 307-year-old flagship store in Piccadilly, holding events such as book launches and celebrity dinners. At the age of 11, a young Venters started his own bakery business, selling cakes and bread baked in his parents’ kitchen.
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