John Browett, chief exectutive of Monsoon/Accessorize
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
Monsoon Accessorize is already an international business. Over half our retail sales and profits come from outside the UK. But, there is much more to do, particularly for Accessorize. If we could just get to the same market penetration we have in the UK in the rest of the world…
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
We have a very ambitious agenda. We are restructuring our UK store portfolio, improving stock management, redesigning our systems and processes, expanding our online offer and building a better and much bigger international business. In each area we are stretching the business to deliver a much better offer for customers – it is a lot of work for our people.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
So far so good, but we always want to go faster.
4. What is the future of the physical store?
Bright but different from today. It may change, but customers want a multi-channel experience. In fashion, customers often browse at home, shop the high street and then order on line. Without the physical store you are not always going to get the sale. However, this means the store has to be a worthwhile destination. Our biggest stores are trading ahead of the average – which makes sense when customers can see the full range at home in the comfort of their home. For the internet enthusiasts I always ask them to recount what they actually did with their last set of purchases. When they are thoughtful, a physical visit is often critical in the buying decision. At Monsoon Accessorize we are changing our store portfolio to reflect where we see the customers moving.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?
I was once given good advice on futurology; in business don’t base your decisions on predictions of the future. Usually you can see what is going to happen by looking carefully at what is going on today. So there will still be high streets – online shopping has taken 15-20 years to have an impact on most retailers, but stores still work. However, a store visit has to be worthwhile, so the major centres are getting stronger. It is much harder for smaller high streets. Where there is the right customer base, the smaller affluent towns are moving to a more social place where you can eat and browse smaller specialty shops. Having said all of that, we keep our lease lengths short as you can never be certain how shopping patterns will change.
6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
They are already critical if you take in iPad as well as mobile phones. It is a post PC World and the role of mobile devices will only get stronger. I am not sure where the cross over point will be, but it is close.
7. What other retail business do you admire?
There are lots of great businesses, but you can’t pick just a few as there is usually something to learn from everyone. Sam Walton was always looking at K Mart, even when they were struggling, as there was always something he could use. The key thing is to find ideas that will work in your context and for your customers.
8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?
Early in my career I worked as a consultant at BCG before joining Tesco, it was almost an accident I ended up in retail. I could have worked in another industry – although it would probably have been a customer facing business.
9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
You don’t want to hear that. I am always hard on my own performance. It always seems to me that I have been too slow and could have done much more for the businesses I have worked in.
10. Who would you place in the Top 20 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?
I think it is very hard to judge who has really made a difference. I am not a fan of ascribing success to individuals, because I know that most great business are driven by good teams of people. In the end if you lead a company you are only one person, it is what everyone does in the company that makes a difference.