Richard Longhurst, co-founder of Lovehoney
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
Spreading the sexual happiness message into the mainstream. The impact of Fifty Shades of Grey on our sales this year has shown that there is a genuine appetite for adult toys in the mass market.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Spreading the sexual happiness message into the mainstream. Retailers are still understandably nervous about expanding their offerings into a previously taboo product area. It’s our job to overcome their fears and bring them new product lines that help them capture this new market.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
Employed more people more quickly, especially ones which are smarter than me and Neal Slateford (Lovehoney co-founder). Which is most people. We love doing things in-house at Lovehoney so recruiting and developing talent is key.
4. What is the future of the physical store?
Functional – Tesco Express is handy for eggs and bacon on a Saturday morning if the fridge is empty. Sometimes the Internet can’t deliver fast enough or you haven’t planned far enough ahead. The only time I go into an HMV is when I’ve forgotten someone’s birthday. Recreational – some people just enjoy shopping. I’d rather save time online and play golf instead.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?
It will be a lovely place for a stroll. In Bath where Lovehoney is based I hope they keep it clean and keep the seagull population down. Logic dictates that if a higher proportion of shopping is done online or out-of-town, then we need fewer shops in town centres or shops that do different things. Perhaps there’ll be a massive expansion of Laser Quest.
6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
In the medium term, devices will be used together – people might research here, decide there, and then place orders somewhere else. Further into the future it’s possible to imagine a world where you don’t need a device to connect to a computer network. Thought-commerce – you heard it here first, though the .com’s been registered since 2008 there’s nothing doing… yet.
7. What other retail business do you admire?
I just ordered a sofa cover from Bemz – they spotted an opportunity and made a great site. ThinkGeek is a big favourite of mine too – lashings of personality with oodles of unique products. Smashing.
8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?
I was a tech journalist in the 1990s before getting into retail. I’d have a go at that again, but I don’t know if I could do it as well as Rock Paper Shotgun.
9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
1 – there’s so much more to do! A pretty good 1 though.
10. Who would you place in the Top 20 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?
I salute Lovehoney’s Matt Curry on a daily basis. He tells me that Simon Harrow at Kiddicare should get in, even though he looks about 12. Which I suppose is appropriate. Oh, and everyone at John Lewis.