Neil Ashworth, CEO, CollectPlus
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
When e-commerce first came to the fore, the accessibility and sophistication of a retailer’s website was the key to gaining competitive advantage. Now, with most of the UK’s major retail brands providing a digital commerce offering of some kind, the battleground for gaining the edge over the competition has firmly shifted to service elements of the retail offering, and in particular to delivery and returns.
While a comparatively new concept, Click & Collect is very much a growing part of a retailers service proposition, and we are very well placed to offer choice to the end consumer through accessible locations where they can access their purchases – whether close to home, close to work or ‘on the move’.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
In many ways, the challenge is in continuing to manage the considerable growth that the business is experiencing whilst maintaining rigour over our service quality. However, whilst we do this, the really exciting part of my role is working with a great team on a multitude of innovative concepts – ensuring that we select the right options, and stimulating the creativity of the team.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
Probably lots of things, but there is a real danger of spending too much time looking in the rear view mirror. The future can be influenced, not the past and we need to keep hindsight in proportion. That said, I have had plenty of ‘if only’ moments in my life, both personal and professional, and one thing is to have been ‘abreast’ of the technical aspects of the IT evolution that has been happening around us – playing catch-up is never easy!
4. What is the future of the physical store?
There is no question that there has been a significant shift from the high street towards online over the last decade or so, and there is certainly no sign of that slowing down anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean the physical store will become redundant. Far from it as shopping behaviour is simply evolving in line with the digital landscape, and it’s important that the physical store does the same.
5. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
I am not sure that we can really talk about ‘primary’ channels, as channels are blurred as far as the modern consumer is concerned – what is the primary channel for one shopping trip may be completely irrelevant to the same customers subsequent trip. However, there is no doubt that mobile is experiencing stunning growth, and for Millennials this is often the channel of choice. As mobile technology grows ever more sophisticated and we become better connected, it will become increasingly more integral to the overall shopping experience – including service elements as well as the product purchase in itself.
6. What other retail/retail-related businesses do you admire?
In the retail space I really admire the force that is Primark for its focus and execution, Oliver Sweeney for its outstanding product and value, and Vente Privee for its style and growth through recommendation in what is essentially a close-out business model.
7. If you hadn’t been a retailer/service-provider-to-retail what would you have liked to do?
Probably a teacher – I get great personal satisfaction from the sharing of knowledge.
8. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
Maybe 6 ….a lot of water has passed, but there is a lot yet to flow.
9. Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?
Without doubt both Sir Terry Leahy and Andy Higginson who had the foresight and resilience to make Tesco.com a leader in the space. But also, Tom Allason at eBay and Dan Cobley at Google, as well as many, many others…