Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We use cookies to personalise your experience; learn more in our Privacy and Cookie Policy. You can opt out of some cookies by adjusting your browser settings; see the cookie policy for details. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies.

What we learnt from retail leaders in 2019

Over the past 12 months, Drapers has interviewed leaders from across the fashion industry – from high street to high-end and spanning everything in between. 

Notable interviewees include Primark chief executive Paul Marchant, Max Bittner, CEO of resale platform Vestiaire Collective and Dame Margaret Barbour, chairman of the British heritage brand, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year.

 Here we have chosen seven of those interviews and picked out the best business insights they shared.

“One thing any business that becomes international has to do is recognise every single store is unique, not just every country” – Paul Marchant, CEO, Primark

drapers primark

When Drapers spoke to Paul Marchant as he celebrated his 10th anniversary as the CEO of Primark in October, he reflected on what has kept the fast fashion giant thriving in today’s turbulent retail climate. As Primark has expanded internationally – it now has 373 stores across 12 countries – tailoring each store to its location has been key.

“We have stores in the north of Spain that are completely different from those in the south,” he said. “We give our store managers a high level of autonomy for their own inventory, so you can make sure that your product offer is much more aligned with the customers’ needs in that market.” 

Marchant also emphasised the importance of “in-store theatre”, and credited the time and effort put into visual merchandising and store design with creating a “much more experiential proposition” for Primark.

“Stick to sustainable, quality products that last” – Dame Margaret Barbour, chairman, Barbour

Dame Margaret Barbour

Having been named the winner of the Drapers Lifetime Achievement Award in November, we spoke to Dame Margaret Barbour about what has made a family business an enduring icon of British fashion.

She explained that quality is essential: “Nowadays, retailers are using a lot of viscose, making cheap clothes, which people can afford, but I hate. I’ve always gone for quality – like Caroline Charles or Armani – but less quantity, like the French women do.

“Barbour products are worn and loved for years on end. We don’t use cheap fabrics or outsource to low labour-cost countries but still produce products that people can afford.”

“We only make for demand. Whatever orders come in, that’s what we make” – Richard Quinn, designer

Richard quinn

Richard Quinn became an overnight sensation after the Queen attended his London Fashion Week show to present him with the first Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in February last year.

Drapers interviewed the 29-year-old designer about how he iss creating a resilient business: “We don’t create surplus stock. I think that keeps the brand solid. Once it’s sold, it’s gone. If you want to own it, then you have to be quick and buy it. And at full price.”

On the potential pressures imposed by influential stores, he added: “When a store selects a rail and says, ‘So, this is how we work’, we say, ‘Well, this is how we work – you pay for it and we make it’,” he explains. “We don’t do sale or return.”

“You can’t have a plan for a legacy if you’re not fully in ownership of it” – Kristina Blahnik, CEO, Manolo Blahnik

Kristina blahnik ceo of manolo blahnik sam chick

The niece of Manolo Blahnik’s eponymous founder spoke to Drapers in November about how she is creating a strong future for the brand by paying attention to its past.

“Internally we use the archives and more and more, because they underpin every aspect of us. My uncle is creating the future archive, and we’re protecting the past archive, and that very much brings us to the present, where we’re kind of in this dynamic moment between the two.”

Another important strategy for Manolo Blahnik has been “to bring more operations directly under the brand’s own control”.

She added: “It’s very important that we have the ability to touch every stage of our journey. On a business level [it is key] to have an impact on every decision made. It’s the only way we can really, truly nurture it.”

“Give your customer what she wants. That’s the trick” – Ash Siddique, co-founder and managing director, Missy Empire

ash siddique Missy Empire

Women’s fast fashion etailer Missy Empire has become a £20m-turnover business within just four years of launching in 2015. Drapers spoke to co-founder Ash Siddique at Missy Empire’s new headquarters in Manchester in September. He explained what has contributed to the company’s success.

“Whatever we plan, we do it from the outside in. What would the Missy girl wear? What would she eat? What would she drink? How does she socialise? Once we had that mindset, the business grew, and we built momentum.”

He added: “We are making sure that everything is connected to the Missy Empire girl. Why let her shop elsewhere to finish off her outfit? That doesn’t make sense.”

“The selection and the edit is the core element of what we try to do for our customer” – Michael Kliger, president and chief executive, Mytheresa

20190531 mytheresa 5821 1 web index

In an increasingly saturated retail market, Mytheresa president and chief executive Michael Kliger told Drapers how the luxury German etailer is setting itself apart from its competitors during a visit to its Munich headquarters in July.

“We don’t believe in being a catalogue for all products and all brands,” Kliger said. Mytheresa stocks around 250 labels, which he believe creates a more tailored experience for shoppers than at competitors such as Matchesfashion, which carry around 450.

“The main benefit we offer to our customer is the selection,” he explained. “You try to find the best brands and, within those brands, the most intriguing and luxurious pieces.”

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.