Retail Insider Breakfast + Movers & Shakers Top 100 Launch

Retail Insider held its latest breakfast event with Andy Harding, chief customer officer at House of Fraser, who helped launch the Multi-channel Movers & Shakers 2015 report.

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Andy Harding, chief customer officer, House of Fraser

Senior executives from John Lewis, B&Q, New Look, White Company and T2 were among those who not only heard how House of Fraser is tackling the move to become a seamless multi-channel organisation but were the first to receive a copy of this year’s Retail Insider Movers & Shakers Top 100 report (a full write-up of the K3 Retail-sponsored report will follow on Monday).

Harding told those gathered at The Delaunay in central London how he had taken on the role of chief customer officer earlier this year as part of a major management restructure at House of Fraser. This involved bringing in a business change team (from Practicology) to help find where channel conflict existed.

“We frequently had two lots of talent [one focused on online and one on stores] and the premise was to move them to single roles within a customer-first, customer-centric model,” he said, adding that this involved 40 people completely changing roles. Despite this level of change, he says there was relatively little disruption to employee numbers as there was a broad understanding across the business that an overhaul was required.

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The other challenge is dealing with a legacy infrastructure, which Harding says is an issue for all stores-based retailers. However, he believes the benefits of having stores far outweighs not having any bricks and mortar presence and as such pure-plays will suffer from not being able to deliver a multi-channel proposition.

Harding also described how House of Fraser is very keen to experiment, which has led it to launch click & collect stores, order-in-store boutique outlets within its own department stores and through a joint-venture trial with Caffe Nero. He admitted to there being mixed results but that House of Fraser’s focus on “clear business rationale, which sharpens your thinking”  ensures that investment is prioritised towards the delivery of profits from a base of sustainable operational costs .

Another innovation was the use of Beacons within mannequins that were originally used by shop floor employees to access more information on clothing items via mobile devices. It has evolved to customers now using them, which is leading to a roll out of Beacon usage across the businesses’ stores that Harding says effectively makes the window displays “shoppable”.

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As well as developing the UK business he says a key focus is also on leveraging the multi-channel expertise of his team within China, which is home to House of Fraser’s parent company. This clearly represents a major opportunity because to date, he says, e-commerce and stores are very much run as discrete business units by retailers in China.

Retail Insider would very much like to thank Andy Harding and the sponsors K3 Retail, Bond Dickinson and Quantum Retail. Without their much appreciated support this event would not have been possible.