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17. Ben Lewis, chief executive, River Island

Ben Lewis, CEO, River Island

Position last year: 20

When River Island chief executive Ben Lewis took Drapers on a tour of the new, 23,000 sq ft store in the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham in March, one thing was clear: he truly understands his customer.

The store has a flexible shop fit; it is designed to shapeshift to suit new trends, both in clothing and store design. It reflects the River Island shopper’s hunger for the latest fashion, while fun touches such as the golden egg chair play to their relative youth. This is further reflected in the Style Studio personal styling service launched at the Bullring and Oxford Street stores during the year.

River Island was founded by Lewis’s uncle Bernard in 1948 and remains family owned. It has enjoyed strong trading over the past couple of years under Ben Lewis’ leadership, resulting in a £30m dividend for the family in 2015. Pre-tax profit at the fashion chain increased 69.4% to £149.1m for the year to December 27 2014, and turnover climbed 10.4% to £925m. Documents filed at Companies House show the business had been valued at £1.6bn. This, together with Lewis’s evident insight into the River Island shopper, sees him move up three places.


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