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Richard Weaver, e-commerce director, Majestic Wine
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
We have the potential to expand our business considerably, and online is a key aspect of this. Online retail provides cost effective forms of marketing to both reach new customers and retain existing ones through greater engagement. At Majestic we’re 12 years into online sales but still finding new ways to reach customers at a faster pace than ever.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Our biggest challenge is scaling our operation without losing our strengths. In terms of online, that means customer service and delivery – as it does for most online businesses. We need to maintain the personality of our service and our standards as we carry out more deliveries and serve more customers. In this sense I’m grateful that at Majestic we are less reliant on external parcel carriers than many retailers. In the UK I think our retailers are under-served by the carrier market.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
I slightly underestimated the speed at which mobile commerce would take off. For medium-sized retailers it’s all about viability, the tipping point at which the additional investment required to set up a mobile channel is offset by the benefits and I waited a little too long and allowed others to be the first movers.
4. What is the future of the physical store?
In our industry we’ve already seen great changes in the nature of physical retail, as much in response to the power of supermarkets as to the growth of the web. I believe that while online shopping has altered paradigms, retailers can continue to prosper with physical stores. They need to adapt and focus on the things that don’t work so well online, such as personal service and immediate access to stock. Click-and-collect is a good example of multichannel working for physical retailers.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?
There are existing trends in the evolution of the high street that I can only see continuing as business models less suited to the modern retail landscape disappear. In particular, we’ll continue to see the growth of services at the expense of traditional retail. I’d like to think that we’ll also see localised specialist and niche retailers succeed, but I’m concerned this can’t and won’t work everywhere.
6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
In some verticals, yes, mobile will take over – smaller, convenience purchases like cinema tickets or downloaded media are ideally suited to mobile commerce. More researched purchases benefit from more screen real estate though. It depends on how you define ‘mobile’ really, because tablets are awkward in this mobile versus non-mobile definition and in many ways they combine the best of both. If there’s a potential issue for the growth of the mobile channel it’s that we need to settle on standards for mobile payments. I’m concerned that there are a lot of fledgling options and it will take time for these to shake out.
7. What other retail business do you admire?
I ask this question of everyone I interview and 90% of the time I hear either Amazon or Asos, and rightly so. Both these businesses have built complex and successful operations on an international scale that make excellent use of technology, yet at heart they stick to good old-fashioned retail fundamentals: product, price and service.
8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?
Like a lot of people in the wine trade I’m a foodie at heart so anything to do with good food would suit me very well. I’m quite jealous of the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or Alex James tactic of moving to the country and cooking or making cheese.
9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
That’s an awful question to answer in public as I’m my own worst critic but equally I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved at Majestic and the role I’ve played in that. I’ll hedge my bets and say eight.
10. Who would you place in the Top 20 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?
I’d nominate James Hart at ASOS for combining scale with innovation, and for doing so having grown the business from the start. I also like what Tom Allason is doing with Shutl – online fulfilment needs some disruption.