Movers & Shakers Q&A – Zia Zareem-Slade, customer experience director, Fortnum & Mason

Brought to you by Retail Insider and K3 Retail

Zia Zareem-Slade, customer experience director, Fortnum & Mason

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

There are many: we have everything in place to grow our digital business in tandem with our store business; we have the chance to create a greater link between in-store and online customer experiences; and we have the opportunity to take the brand to new people and be more relevant to more people, more often. But ultimately, the opportunity for Fortnum’s is the same one that has always existed – people want interesting products and experiences with provenance, craft and care poured into them. That’s what we’ve done for over 300 years and what we’ll continue to do. The challenge is to keep doing more, and better.

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

The key challenge for our business is ensuring we drive growth, innovation and extraordinary experiences without alienating customers or veering away from the core values of the brand – remaining true to the essence of what makes Fortnum’s special. It’s a delicate balancing act but the results would suggest we’re managing it. Of course, the current political climate makes things interesting from an economic perspective but we remain focused on amazing products and extraordinary experiences.

3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?

A good question. Leading change in our kind of business is an art. It’s a fine balance between evolution and revolution. I occasionally fear that we should have been more revolutionary at times and moved with greater pace.

4. What is the future of the physical store and the high street?

I think there will be an ever-closer alignment between the two – more (and more meaningful) integration between the online customer experience and the in-store experience. People still come to Fortnum’s for that sensory retail experience, but our online business continues to grow very quickly. There are real opportunities in delivering a little more of the special in-store experience online, and in delivering the simplicity and convenience of online shopping, in-store.

People want experiences – whether thats having a delicious lunch in The Gallery Restaurant, enjoying fresh blinis and hand-carved salmon from our fresh food hall, or getting the best wet shave from our Master Barber. There’s still so much we can offer customers in-store, and plenty more wonderful things to come from Fortnum’s.

5. What technology-related plans have you got for the next 12 months?

From an online perspective, we run a programme of continuous improvement and have a platform that allows us to release new features or code changes every day – so we don’t have those big bang moments.

We’re focused on improving the shopping experience around core product categories such as Tea, Hampers and Wine. People shop each product in a different way and we’re increasingly finding that the typical ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is limiting. From navigation, product display, and content integration, we’re working to ensure that each delivers the very best customer experience.

We have exciting plans for mobile and on improving the experience for our international customers.  Enhancing the in-store experience for Hampers through the use of digital is high on the agenda too. Used appropriately, we think it has the potential to transform how people shop hampers in-store.

From a stock management, space-planning, and customer insight perspective, as a business we are focused on deploying appropriate technology to two ends – improving our own processes, and ensuring we better meet the needs of our customers.

6. With the issue of digital wildfire how do you understand and control your growing digital landscape?

In the grand scheme of things, the digital world is still so young; new challenges arise all the time so we invest in understanding our digital spaces and our audiences too. We’re fortunate to have such a strong brand identity – and because we have a clear (and clearly-communicated) sense of who we are, there’s excellent consistency of content, engagement and tone across our digital landscape.

For me, it is about being relentless in our product and service focus and, therefore, not having to ‘control’ our audience, but to really build relationships with them. We want to understand our digital audiences as opposed to containing them too much, because digital wildfire doesn’t just work negatively – if we deliver extraordinary digital experiences, then positive word of mouth spreads.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

Far too many to mention here, but John Lewis’ full-force adoption of a multi-channel focus has been hugely impressive. Amazon is easy to admire for constantly ensuring we all up our game. Selfridges, too – the store is gorgeous and their creative confidence is fantastic. What other department store would have the confidence to have launched Project Ocean? Lastly there is Collette in Paris for its quality edit and for staying so true to its vision.

8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?

I wanted to be a barrister or an actor. But I’m glad things worked out the way they have. I honestly have the best job in the world.

9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?

Tough question – 7.5 – there’s always room for improvement!

10. Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?

Siobhan Fitzpatrick of Maplin and Zoe Colegrave at Fortnum’s.

This is one in an ongoing series of Q&A’s with individuals that are featured in the annual ‘Retail Insider Movers & Shakers in Retail Top 100’ report.

Read full story

Retail Insider Breakfast – Roger Whiteside, CEO of Greggs + Miranda Ballard, co-founder of Muddy Boots

Retail Insider held its latest Breakfast Event of 2017 with Roger Whiteside, CEO of Greggs, and Miranda Ballard, co-founder of Muddy Boots, who shared their experiences of both running food retail companies but where they differ massively in terms of scale. Greggs operates a hefty 1,786 outlets while Muddy Boots has a mere three stores […]

Read full story

Humans and robots or humans versus robots?

For technology-focused individuals in the world of retail there really is no escape from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. It is increasingly being applied to the likes of chatbots, which aim to imitate a human interaction with customers. This is pretty hot stuff right now. The ability to use this clever technology to engage […]

Read full story

Innovative Retailer – Depop

Name: Depop The Place: On your smart phone via the Depop app, which has over six million registered users. Sorry, how many? 6 million. I know. And it’s no slouch on Twitter either with 166,000 followers and a Facebook community with over 36,500 likes. But the app is where it’s really at. The Story: Currently […]

Read full story

UK’s serious thirst for alcohol online

Despite the continued reduction in alcohol consumption in the UK (yes, it’s true, and it’s partly driven by Millennials’ lessened thirst for booze) the country is a leader in terms of sales made online – having the highest level among European consumers. Recent research from Profitero shows that 21% of consumers in the UK have […]

Read full story

Retail Insider Drinks Event with Jonathan Wall, group e-commerce director of Shop Direct + Andrew Robb, COO of Farfetch

   Retail Insider held its latest Evening Drinks Event in London with two leading players from the technology end of fashion retailing giving their insights on the industry and how it continues to change through ongoing innovation. Andrew Robb, COO of Farfetch, and Jonathan Wall, group e-commerce director of Shop Direct, took part in a […]

Read full story

Movers & Shakers Q&A – Simon Mottram, founder and CEO, Rapha Racing

Simon Mottram, founder and CEO, Rapha Racing 1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business? Growing the sport of cycling. We want to reach more people and get more people to enjoy cycling. We’re ready made to take people by the hand. They can join our club, take part in rides, travel with us, buy […]

Read full story

Launch of ‘Transforming Retail’ Awards 2017

Retail Insider is proud to launch its inaugural ‘Transforming Retail’ Awards in 2017. The aim of the awards is to showcase the best examples of innovation across the sector and we would like to invite relevant organisations to apply to be shortlisted in the relevant categories. If you wish to nominate for an award all […]

Read full story

Retail Innovation: What the future holds for brick and mortar stores

Online shopping continues to disrupt the retail sector. While in-store sales still make up the majority of revenue for retailers, traditional brick and mortar stores have been struggling to keep up with the pace of change as more shoppers turn to the internet for their shopping trips. However, new-technologies are beginning to now disrupt the […]

Read full story

Differentiation is real definition of success

It is somewhat ironic that in the early days of the internet fashion was regarded as one of the categories that were not expected to make the move online. Apparently shoppers were too wedded to the idea of touching, feeling, and trying on goods. Or so the theory went. Try telling that to the clothing […]

Read full story

Empower employees to deliver exemplary experiences

Retail is gradually moving towards being about delivering a great customer experience above all else. This view was recently expounded by Debenhams’ chairman Sir Ian Cheshire at the World Retail Congress in Dubai when he suggested the role of the retailer was no longer about selling goods but was instead about selling an experience. My […]

Read full story

Digital Retail Innovations Q&A – OfferMoments

Following the launch of the Digital Retail Innovations 2016 Report (sponsored by Webloyalty) a series of Q&A’s with the leading figures behind some of the key entries in the report are being published. Here is a Q&A with Abdul Alim, co-founder, OfferMoments, which is placed at number 40 in the report. 1.How did the original idea come […]

Read full story

The rise and hopeful demise of ‘grocerant’

The retail industry has a great capacity to devise descriptive terms that should never see the light of day. Retailtainment and omni-channel are two such terms that really should have been consigned straight to the bin. A similar thought occurred to me when I came across a new term – grocerant. I guess you’ve worked […]

Read full story

Innovative Retailer – Rapha Racing

Name: Rapha The Place: 13 units globally right now, but they’re nothing if not ambitious at Rapha and want to get up to 20 by the end of the year and then keep that growth level up each year. Crikey. The Story: This is really a tale of a biking gear brand not primarily a […]

Read full story

Screen on the Green presents Future of F&B

The Screen on the Green is a cinema in North London that has a majestic history, having played host to some thought-provoking bands. It is also the location for the Future of Food & Beverage’ seminar hosted by Portland. Retail Insider has long been an advocate of the theory that the leisure and retail industries […]

Read full story

Which retailers do you trust?

Trust is a big issue for large UK retailers at the moment. From rising food prices post-Brexit to the #StopFundingHate campaign, customers’ trust seems to be under constant pressure. Retailers know if they lose the battle for trust, their market share will slide. The latest research from Mettle measures customer trust in some of the […]

Read full story

Polarisation of shopping malls continues

Shopping mall operators in the US are proving an interesting investment opportunity for some of the country’s hedge funds who see them as worthy of their attention. But don’t think this is because they view them as growth stories whose values will increase. It is the complete opposite. They are placing bets on expectations that […]

Read full story

Movers & Shakers Q&A – Sara Prowse, CEO, Hotter Shoes

Sara Prowse, CEO, Hotter Shoes 1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business? International expansion, with continued growth in the US in particular. We are approaching this opportunity in two ways: through digital expansion; and through retail partnerships. 2. What is the biggest challenge to your business? External pressures. Consumer confidence is likely to […]

Read full story

Budget 2017 – far from a multi-channel affair

On budget day this week Alex Baldock, CEO of Shop Direct, gave a super presentation at Retail Week Live on the beauty of operating as a pure play retailer unencumbered by the hassle of operating high street shops. He did not refer to business rates specifically but there is no doubt that they are proving […]

Read full story

Short term pain for long term gain

For the first time in a decade H&M has made changes to the guidance it gives investors on its expectations for future performance. It is to now focus on achieving 10-15% growth in total sales each year rather than on the long established aim of a 10-15% increase in physical store openings each year. This […]

Read full story