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Tom Allason, founder of Shutl

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

Becoming the delivery standard. I would like to see Shutl influencing consumer buying behavior globally with shoppers gravitating towards retailers that offer ‘shutl’ and away from those that don’t.

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

Integration with retailers because while the ROI for Shutl makes offering it a no-brainer commercially (increased customers, conversion and profits) the implementation is not simple. It involves integration with the web front-end, stock management systems, changes to store processes and particularly in the case of a large retailer it will cross many different areas of responsibility. Our challenge is getting through to the right person within a retailer who has the vision to understand the impact of the proposition on their customers and who also values the commercial benefits of this impact over the work that is required to implement Shutl properly. We usually find ourselves competing for space in a retailer’s development roadmap with a number of other projects which while not having the same impact on a retailer’s business are much simpler to implement.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
I’d have taken Shutl live much sooner – albeit with a far less refined product. In some ways we spent too much time ensuring that we went live with the best possible service. But had we come to market six months earlier – albeit with a far more basic product – we would have given ourselves another Christmas and we would be six months closer to world domination.

4. What is the future of the physical store?

As this market becomes even more competitive retailers are going to work even harder at satisfying shoppers’ needs as well as their shareholders demands. In my mind this means giving customers what they want when and where they want it, which will necessitate changes across all of a retailer’s business and not just their stores.  This means having all channels (web, store, phone, mobile, social etcetera) equally good at helping customers discover/buy/return products. For me this means physical stores will need to be much smarter (at knowing who customers are and where stock is) and also much leaner (selling more goods without buying more by being more efficient with distribution of stock). This will mean smaller stock positions in each store. Stores will also need to be more flexible at being able to fulfill a lot of the back office functions like fulfillment.

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

Although the stores themselves will evolve rapidly in response to customers’ expectations increasing as a result of what the retail innovators are doing (expectations only go 1 way), the high-street will probably not change too much.  There will always be the experiential and social part of shopping that cannot be satisfied digitally.

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

I don’t think there will be a primary sales channel in the future. There will just be customers and retailers and different means of satisfying customer needs.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

Apple for transforming what people thought was possible through retail. John Lewis for establishing a culture and values that are meaningful and evident in everything they do. And also Amazon: for not being afraid of anything, putting retailers and manufacturers onto the back foot, and for forcing innovation.

8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do? [rather silly question for a non-retailer – ed]

Found a company that could enable immediate delivery of online purchases.

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

A 6. By most measures 2011 was a good year as we took our service live across multiple (very different) major retailers and established that our value proposition makes sense to shoppers, retailers, couriers and our shareholders. We have also demonstrated that our service can operate beyond London. However, we would have liked to have done all of the above much quicker. I think there is room for a 50+% improvement this year and so I’m aiming for 9+.