Movers & Shakers Q&A with Jeremy Fennell

Brought to you by Retail Insider and K3 Retail

Jeremy Fennell, UK e-commerce and DSGiB director, Dixons Retail

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

Multi-channel is the way people shop so following the customer is the opportunity. The store network and the people we have enable the service we offer to be over and above that of everybody else. With our stores base 50% of our orders are click and collect. As an existing retailer with a strong infrastructure we’re adapting to incorporate multi-channel and add value to the customer. In the last 24 months we’ve installed a lot into our business – such as reserve and collect, better delivery options, and various new technology.

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

I don’t want outsiders telling me the internet is the biggest challenge. The internet is Amazon and the pure-plays, but it is also probably our biggest opportunity as customers shop both in-store and online. Eighty per cent of our store customers have been online and 20% of them represent online sales. In fact 10% of our online sales are actually done in-store as all our tills are kiosks so they can handle assisted online transactions. We’re finding the more our store colleagues use them the more sales the customers make.

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

We’d have put our Curry’s and PC World stores under one roof more quickly. When we put them together they averaged a 20% sales uplift. It was scary when we did it as many people thought 1 + 1 would equal 1.5 but they serve two different demographics from the one location. It’s the same with our responsive websites that give the same customer experience regardless of device and screen size. We made the decision only 18 months ago to do it and it has been hugely successful.

4. What is the future of the physical store?

They will continue to exist but there will be fewer of them. They will have to be exciting and east to shop in order that they attract customers – letting them feel the product and talking to people. There is a demand for stores so it is up to us to make the environments more exciting. They will also exist as logistics points because people do not want to wait in at home for deliveries.

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

Who knows? We expect to be in premium locations only – that is high street premium locations. I’m less certain of less premium locations. Our refits and store transformation programme involves out-of-town superstores.

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

There is a big difference between mobile as a sales channel and as a browsing channel. Mobile and tablet traffic in June 2011 was 6% of the total traffic to our sites and by June 2012 it was 12% and now it is 24%. However, these customers are visiting the sites from multiple locations as part of their shopping journeys. They might buy online or in-store. It’s not straightforward – it’s about people using devices for browsing, price comparisons, and for product information. So in terms of traffic usage the answer is yes, mobile devices will be the primary channel.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

People’s investment in multi-channel varies hugely – from zero to vast sums. Target your investment at what your customers tell you they want. We see kiosks and iPads popping up but does the customer want them? I like the Majestic Wine business. It has a good range, good prices, good availability, knowledgeable staff, and is a pleasurable experience. They’ve done lots of thinking about adding value and delivering it.

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

Played cricket for England. As it is, I’m captain of Little Gaddesden Cricket Club [in Hertfordshire]. I enjoy the travel, the game, and being part of the team.

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

My business score would be better than my cricket score as I’m most proud of what we’ve achieved at the company. But we’ve room for improvement. I’d prefer to let others judge me.