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Five key learnings from The Drapers Interviews of 2016

This year Drapers profiled some of the fashion industry’s top business leaders, from Shop Direct’s Alex Baldock, to Yoox Net-a-Porter Group’s Luca Martines and David Reiss. Here we select five of those interviews and reveal the key business insights they shared.

Alex baldock cropped

Alex baldock cropped

Lesson 1: ‘Have a clear sense of direction, founded in what makes you distinct’

3rd February – Alex Baldock, CEO, Shop Direct

At the helm of etail giant Shop Direct, which operates the, and sites, Shop Direct goes from strength to strength, having gone from unprofitable to £70m of profit before tax in the last reported financial year.

“It’s so tempting to seize the latest idea, isn’t it? You need a level of responsiveness in retail – one of the things I like about retail is that you can make decisions and see the impact the next day – but you need to temper that by having a steady hand on the tiller and a clear sense of direction, founded in what makes you distinct.”

Richard price 03

Richard price 03

Lesson 2: ‘Never lose your desire to learn’

10th February – Richard Price, CEO, F&F

Just as Richard Price secured the top job at F&F in February 2015, Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis announced the closure of 43 unprofitable stores and admitted the grocer had overstated its profit forecast for the first half of 2014 by £263m. While F&F performance is not broken out from the overall statistics, in the six months to August 29 Tesco profits fell 55%, from £779m to £354m, with UK like-for-like sales down 1.1%. However, he was undeterred.

“The clincher was when I met Dave Lewis and understood his vision. Tesco was going through turbulent times and a change of leadership, but Dave was inspirational and compelling. I felt like I wanted to be part of the journey Tesco was on. You never lose your desire to learn and I’m learning a huge amount.”

Nigel Oddy

Nigel Oddy

Lesson 3: ‘Keep open to buy so you can change, cut, duck and dive’

4th May – Nigel Oddy, CEO, House of Fraser

When Drapers interviewed Nigel Oddy he said he would never blame poor sales on weather, but that it is having a bigger impact on spending patterns than ever before.

“People buy now to wear now. When I was young, you used to buy your seasonal clothes at the start of every season. Now, if you’re going out tonight, you’re going to buy an outfit for tonight. As retailers we have to have far more transitional products to cope with the changing weather pattern.”

He adds that retailers need to adapt their sourcing strategies to allow them to react in season: “Fast fashion has to be closer to home. That’s what our teams are working on – that and keeping open to buy so you can change, cut, duck and dive. That’s what retail is all about.”

Luca Martines

Luca Martines

Lesson 4: ‘Use data to improve the digital experience’

13th October – Luca Martines, president of Yoox Net-a-Porter Group’s off-season division, comprised of Yoox and The Outnet

Following the “mobile first” relaunch of Yoox, Drapers caught up with Luca Martines, where he explained the importance of data insight in creating a compelling digital experience.

“The group is also looking at how to better use big data: “If you have been visiting this, buying this, you are located there, you’re a woman, man, your age, if you have paid by credit card – all of this can be used to offer a more tailor-made shopping experience. In fashion ecommerce, you don’t have the physical experience of the product as you would in a store, so you need to use data to improve the digital experience.”

David reiss

David reiss

Lesson 5: ‘It’s about making people feel a million dollars’

18th November – David Reiss, founder, Reiss

The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Drapers Awards 2016, David Reiss spoke to Drapers about some of the key lessons he has learnt throughout his career and why Reiss has a timeless appeal.

“I’ve never liked fashion for fashion’s sake – I’ve always been about selling clothes that people really want to wear and that feel-good factor. You have to have a really clear vision of who you are, and what you are and I think that’s been with me all the way through.”

“A lot of women just like nice, clean fashion that suits them, as opposed to fashion for the sake of fashion and trends,” he explains. “It’s about making people feel a million dollars and timeless pieces – that’s our brand ethos and the way the business is structured.”

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