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Editor's Comment: Are CCOs the chief executives of the future?

Keely Stocker

Last week we held our annual Next Generation conference and networking event for first, second and third jobbers. Not only was it a great success, it was a wonderful reminder of how inspiring our industry is.

Taking to Twitter on the day, attendees revealed some of their highlights, including an amusing and engaging interview with Simon Berwin, managing director of Leeds-based suit manufacturer Berwin & Berwin, who spoke about his career in the tailoring industry and emphasised its importance in the industry today. In his own words: “A suit is the equivalent of a women’s handbag – where else would men put things without so many pockets?”

Speakers on the day included The White Company’s clothing director Barbara Horspool and Jigsaw chief executive Peter Ruis, both of whom have had successful careers in the industry working for a number of fashion retailers. Ruis in particular highlighted the importance of working for a variety of businesses to gain different experiences and skills to take on to the next role.

The industry is changing, and with that change comes new opportunities to progress

Talking about his own career path, he pointed out the skills he has learned in each role from Marks & Spencer, Ted Baker, John Lewis and most recently at the helm of Jigsaw. Ruis urged the audience to build a varied career path around skills and experiences rather than going for the role offering the largest pay packet. Horspool agreed, and also emphasised the importance of including experience at international companies to build a comprehensive CV.

I’m sure career paths are something Andy Harding has been thinking about of late, as it was revealed this week that he has handed in his notice at House of Fraser after five years. Harding has held many roles across a number of retailers including BHS, Carphone Warehouse and Ryman. As chief customer officer (CCO) at House of Fraser, he shows how the role of head of ecommerce – which he held at Carphone Warehouse from 2000 to 2006 – can develop over the years, as organisational structures evolve.

Harding joined HoF as director of ecommerce, becoming executive director for multichannel and finally CCO in March last year. In his latest role, he has been responsible for international customer strategy, multichannel sales and profit, online and offline marketing and the overall development of the multichannel customer proposition. 

As I see it, he now has two main options: as many retailers start to introduce the role of CCO into the business, I’m sure many will look to take on someone with his experience. He could feasibly end up at another large retailer. However, I feel it’s more likely Harding will look to move into a chief executive role at a smaller retailer. His varied experience, together with his deep understanding of digital and multichannel, would allow him to bring a different approach to any business. I

t’s a new path to CEO, but one I’m sure many would be interested to follow, including our 30 under 30 stars of the future. The industry is changing, and with that change comes new opportunities to progress. 

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