Movers & Shakers Q&A – Steve Robinson, CEO, Achica

Movers and Shakers 2014 Front Cover

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Steve Robinson, CEO, Achica

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

Younger business are fortunate not to have the same constraints as older ones; difficult to exit leases, hard to change cultures, historical pension commitments, expensive to change legacy systems etc. Starting with a clean sheet of paper allows you to be agile, creative and efficient. And if you approach the right markets with the right concepts then that’s a great opportunity.

Steve Robinson

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

All fast growing businesses face the same challenge – fast growth. You constantly need to keep ahead of that growth with your systems, people and process or there will come a point where the business will struggle.

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

Probably focused even harder on international. France is a great market for us and has grown pretty impressively. With slightly more focus I am sure it would have done even better.

4. What is the future of the physical store?

There are a number of key propositional levers in retail; range, price, service, convenience and theatre. The first two favour online. Service and Convenience are probably 50:50 right now and theatre still probably favours physical stores. I don’t think physical retail will ever  diminish to a point where it hasn’t got a role to play in the last of these three.

5. What will the high street look like in a decade?

I think they will be a blend of click & collect pick-up points and bakers, fishmongers and butchers.

6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?

I think it’s stronger than that. It will be people’s first point of call for any need they are trying to fulfil and will be fully interlinked with all the physical interactions. I was in B&Q buying some chain the other day and the guy helping me said if I took a picture of the barcode then they could scan it at the till. That’s the definition of easy and how technology can help.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

Rather predictably Amazon. It is beyond convenient. As a family we buy most (non-ACHICA) things there. And that’s an eclectic mix of stuff! For me it has range, price and convenience nailed!

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

I am quite a generalist and so would have a go at anything. I like a challenge and I like to build and create things. There are many roles in life that would cover these.

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

It may sound unoriginal but I learn stuff both about retail and myself every day I come to work. By definition that means I must have some way to go before I am a 10!

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

Without a doubt John Roberts. I have been close to AO.com for a number of years and have always admired the way that business has disrupted the market, attracted great talent, and had a relentless focus on customer service. Many traditional businesses have spent a fortune trying to get to a place that John  has reached through good leadership and hard work.

11. Favourite colour?

Blue.