Gracia Amico, e-commerce director, Hobbs
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
International. Although we deliver to 50 countries from our website and have concessions in various countries, we have a very busy time ahead focusing on international expansion. We have just launched our German website and are three weeks away from launching our US and Australian websites. This coupled with on-the-ground concession expansion in these countries and interest from China makes this a very exciting period for us. There is a real appetite for our brand abroad which I think is in part because of the popularity of the true British style in those countries and partly due to a very strong new collection.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Due to the economic climate there has been a lot of discounting on the high street and online. We are going to stand strong and let our sales growth come from the strength of the product. Online is in general more sensitive to promotions and therefore achieving our goals online with less promotions will require real focus and trading the site smartly.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
The awareness of the strength of the social channels and how that influences SEO. I would have liked to be less preoccupied with the very detail of the technical SEO set up and to have addressed the content evolution sooner.
4. What is the future of the physical store?
For fashion there definitely will be a strong role for the store. Our stats show that a large amount of our customers still only browse the site and buy in-store. In addition we see that over 20% of our database will open our email but will go to store to buy. These stats have not changed much over the last five years. It is meaningless talking about store, online and mobile separately. It really is called ‘Retail’ and it is about serving your customer in the most convenient way for them. In addition, I strongly believe stores play an essential part in international expansion.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?
Less stores but more digital-enabled stores and inspirational places. I have been wondering about the use of mannequins in windows for a long time now. Would it not be great to bring these to life? I hope to see the high street being better used in a more creative way and not limited to a store’s four walls. For example the use of virtual walls in unexpected places.
6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
It certainly starts looking like that from a traffic perspective. However, as it is all part of ‘retail’, with each channel attributing heavily to the other. It is essential to be able to monitor and measure this.
7. What other retail business do you admire?
I like the flash sale site for brands such as Achica and Vente Privee. There is a sense of excitement on a daily basis due to new products arriving on the site with good prices. I like the concept and it really understands the zeitgeist; promotion-driven customers looking for quick bargains from good premium brands.
8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?
I love what is possible now with technology in different industries. I am particular drawn to the virtual representation of architecture and the possibilities it represents in the industry. I would have loved to be able to use these programs and build great buildings
9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
E-commerce is changing and evolving so fast. I am constantly aware that there is more to know and tackle. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of this era and to keep my brain engaged!