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'I started on the shop floor': Nigel Oddy's 38 years in retail

Former House of Fraser chief executive Nigel Oddy rounded off today’s Drapers Next Generation by reflecting on the importance of immersing yourself in retail and remaining fascinated with the industry.

next gen nigel

next gen nigel

Drapers editor Keely Stocker interviews Nigel Oddy at Drapers Next Generation

Oddy, who joined homeware retailer The Range as chief executive earlier this month, reflected on his 38 years in retail and urged those at the start of their careers to know their sectors inside out.

“When I had my first job working on a sock counter in Marks & Spencer, I spent every second of my spare time looking at the high street, thinking of trends and what we could do better,” he said.

“Know your competition – when I was at House of Fraser I was looking at John Lewis every week, I was in Debenhams, I was looking at M&S. You must immerse yourself and understand your market – if you don’t enjoy doing that, you’re in the wrong business and you should be doing something else.”

Oddy passed on two keys pieces of advice to the next generation of fashion talent: all great trees grow out of acorn and the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.

“I started on the shop floor and didn’t go to university, and have worked my way up to chief executive – there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.”

He concluded the day by saying it was impossible to pick just one highlight from his long career: “I’ve enjoyed my career so much. I was absolutely delighted when I was made manager of my first store. I was delighted when I was made manager of Marks & Spencer Marble Arch, when I was made an executive, when I was made a CEO – it’s all been a highlight.”

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