Movers & Shakers Q&A – Neil Sansom, omni-channel director, Moss Bros

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Neil Sansom, omni-channel director, Moss Bros

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

Development of our single customer view across all our channels and between our retail and hire businesses. Hire is probably what Moss Bros is well known for but it represents less than 20% of the business. Customers tend not to realise that we sell one of the best ranges of formalwear and provide expert advice. It has taken 2-3 years of development to put in place our infrastructure. Single customer view will allow us to identify customers across channel – store, online, mobile, retail and hire – and to maximise our marketing communication across these areas so driving sales. It is a big opportunity for us to get our brand better known and to be regarded as the place to go for men’s formalwear.

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2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

The growth of mobile as this is transforming how customers shop in-store and online. Researching either before a store visit or while in-store is growing and it’s all on mobile. We have previously optimised desktop sites but mobile is all about speed, functionality and dipping in and out. Providing the right experience and ensuring this is in synchronisation with the other customer interactions is a huge challenge and will get even more complex as new devices like wearables come into the equation.

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

I can honestly say not much as we have grown e-commerce significantly here at Moss Bros from less than 2% of sales to nearly 10% in two years. This has meant being focussed on delivery and catching-up on our competitors. We still have some way to go and now we are thinking more omni-channel from a stronger e-commerce base. It puts us in a great position further to deepen our relationships with customers and grow the business further.

4. What is the future of the physical store?

Stores are, and will still be, a critical part of a retailers’ channel to market, however customers will demand and expect stores to change. This will be physically in appearance but mainly in the experience. Digital technology will get more embedded into stores and staff will be expected to embrace that technology. Different brands and the type of shop will determine how far technology goes but it will impact all retail in some way. Customers will check out on their own devices – why wait at a queue? Reviews on products or services will be easy to reference, and other social interactions will become more of a norm. Stores will become more of an experience centre but there might be less of them. We opened one of our first stores on a destination retail park at Fort Dunlop and it trades very well on a bigger footprint than we would normally operate. Click & collect is still growing in our business and still represents a big opportunity to drive more footfall into store

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

Depends upon the high street location? I don’t think there is one answer. With tattoo parlours and charity shops, the big growth sectors on a market town high street, but then in major cities the high street is seeing more chains and more choice for customers.

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

Not sure it will be the primary channel as customers will use different devices in different ways and at different times. Mobile will definitely become more important and our mobile and tablet sales are nearly as big as our desktop sales. This trend will get stronger driven by smartphone growth. The main challenge on smartphones is conversion as it tends to be lower than desktop and tablets. In an omni-channel world devices and channels will all merge and all will be important.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

Neiman Marcus in the US, for some of the personalisation tools, and Asos here in the UK because of its achievement in beating the bricks and mortar brands and building a brand from a start-up.

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

I was a keen amateur footballer in my day so a professional footballer would have been a dream or now having taken up golf, a tour golfer!

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

Not sure it is for me to judge so ask my boss, CEO Brian Brick and the board.

10. Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?

There really are not that many e-commerce retailers that have been around the block and have got the experience so the movers and shakers list seems to have them all listed.