As former George at Asda product boss Fiona Lambert prepares to join River Island as managing director of business development, Drapers examines what she will bring to the high street giant.
Drapers understands that Fiona Lambert’s newly created role at River Island will be to identify and develop new business opportunities across stores, online, international, franchise, wholesale and licences. She will work closely with CEO Ben Lewis when she joins later this year.
One industry source told Drapers: “The Lewis family are very private, but they hugely respect Fiona Lambert and all that she brings in terms of her credentials, her eye and her ingenuity. She has a lot of ideas about what can be done – and well done to them for seeing this.”
Sources have said Lambert will work to make River Island’s offer “more relevant”. This could include expanding into new categories, such as athleisurewear, or broadening the core customer base into different age groups.
“Fiona has the ability to create a product proposition suitable for a customer and marketplace, regardless of channel. She has done this repeatedly across a multitude of categories,” one insider said.
Sources have told Drapers the Lewis family have always been quick to adapt to the changing retail environment and are looking for new opportunities to drive sales.
“Fiona is a really interesting hire for River Island,” said Victoria Nightingale, director of Barracuda Search. “Clearly, it’s about coming up with new ideas, being first to market and generating something that is going to create a point of difference
“River Island has always been very product focused and with Fiona, you have someone who is [passionate about product].”
Source: Benjamin McMahon
Lambert is joining from Dunelm, where she was product director. She previously held senior roles at Asda and Marks & Spencer, working alongside retail veteran George Davies to help spearhead the launch of George at Asda. She then moved to Next for seven years to head womenswear product, before returning to George as brand director.
One womenswear supplier told Drapers Lambert’s product experience will be invaluable: “It is a very shrewd appointment. Fiona has a wealth of experience and has worked with legends like Davies. When retail is going through such a turbulent time, combining youth and experience is a very clever idea. Fiona has a very good grounding in different aspects of retail, she is a very good operator and also a good mentor for young people.”
Davies told Drapers: “As a designer you need to understand retail and get out there and see it. You can’t design sat in an office. Fiona has the same approach, she is down to earth and very product focused.”
- Fiona Lambert in conversation with George Davies
- The family history of River Island: Bernard Lewis and Ben Lewis