Movers & Shakers Q&A with Alison Lancaster of White Stuff

Brought to you by and K3 Retail

Alison Lancaster, Cross Channel Director, White Stuff Limited

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
CRM, and the continuing journey towards being a truly integrated cross channel retailer.  White Stuff now has the technology to create a single view of our customers across all channels, and this will enable all our channels to deliver even better, more relevant and personal customer experience s and communications to our lovely customers.

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Too much to do, and never enough time to do it all!  At the same time, the economy and consumer confidence is slowing growth down so existing resources get a little more stretched. But we have great people who really want to be different, make a difference and make the world a little happier!

3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
I would have liked to have accelerated and developed our International web proposition sooner so we could have built a bigger international customer database and be selling more overseas online by now.

4. What is the future of the physical store?
A happy one! Shops are the major element in our cross channel strategy and are very much the physical representation of our brand and they consistently deliver a really super shopping experience. We have 80 shops and plan to open more in key UK customer locations. We are also just opening our first two International shops in Northern Europe. With our ‘4 new ways to shop’ we expect more existing and new customers to browse and research online but buy in-store, or choose the new Click and Collect option in addition to buying online or via the phone. I can see the leading pure plays opening shops or having a physical retail brand presence in the future too.

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

White Stuff is all about ‘local shops for local people’ and we love to be an integral part of our local community, and deliver remarkable personal shopping experiences and service.  I think the high street will need to create more retail theatre and brand  ‘showcases’  to deliver exciting, original, differentiated and entertaining customer experiences. The key malls will be the major regional or national shopping ‘entertainment and leisure destinations’ for groups and crowds to gather on a grand scale and be fully wired to exploit all the new potential with emerging mobile and social technology, tools and media.

6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
I can see shop staff using mobile devices and social commerce more as part of the in-store brand and customer experience.  Another benefit of mobile devices in shops will be to gather retail customer opinions and feedback to enhance user-generated content on the web and via social networks.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

I admire ASOS, Net- a-Porter and Zappos for making a step change in creating new customer shopping experiences, service, choice and delivery over the last decade. I also love the retail ‘theatre’, entertainment, sheer scale and brand choice of shopping in Harrods, and the consistently good service and value at John Lewis.  

8. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
You should ask my team that one as I always want to do more, faster, quicker, and my ‘to do’ list is never completed! There’s always so much to do, and loads of new stuff – it could never be a perfect score. It’s a bit like painting the Golden Gate Bridge – just as you think you’re reaching the end, there’s a new bit to start over again, and you never finish it.  (However, if pushed, I’d be happy to say probably 9/10 for fun and working with great people along the way).

9. Who would you place in the Top 30 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?
The Top 30 features the great and the good of the industry! It’s inspiring to see so many of the names I respect and admire so much like Nick Robertson, Natalie Massenet, Scott Weavers-Wright, Robin Terrell, Laura Wade-Gery, Peter Fitzgerald, Clare Gilmartin, Miriam Lahage up there with the best!

10. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?
I originally wanted to be a vet, but knowing what I know now, I think I’d liked to have been a business psychologist!