Brian McBride, chairman of Asos and Wiggle
1. What is the greatest opportunity for the retail businesses you are involved with?
I think every e-commerce business has the same phenomenal opportunity as we can clearly see the percentage of the retail market served by online rising inexorably daily, weekly, and monthly. If we perform averagely we will probably do well, but the aspiration must be to perform at the top of our game and take share in a rising market. That’s as good as it can ever get in any industry.
2. What is the biggest challenge to these businesses?
The challenges of growing pains, of ensuring our systems, logistics, customer proposition and our leadership teams can keep pace. And keeping up with Google, Facebook and all these super smart organisations that take a large chunk of our marketing spend. But these are all high class problems to deal with.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far (career-wise)?
Nothing. I think to succeed and progress, either as a founder or a manager, you have to take risks, and experience discomfort. It’s like starting exercising and feeling muscle pain, it’s a good sign that you are doing the right things. You need to be prepared to re-invent yourself, walk into a different industry, company, and culture. It’s like jumping into a freezing swimming pool. Staying in your comfort zone is not going to advance you.
4. With the issue of digital wildfire how do you understand and control growing digital landscapes?
I don’t really know. With the great upsides that the digital world brings to everyone’s life there is going to be some downside as well. As long as the upsides are far bigger than the downsides then I am cool. Today and for a long time they will be.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?
It will look smaller, smarter, and sharper. The buffaloes will be extinct and everyone still standing will have earned the right to be there.
6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
They will be forever because the world has changed and it isn’t going back. And the devices are not going to get any smaller. The form factor will be what you have today. Our fingers aren’t getting any smaller, and our eyesight isn’t getting any better, so miniaturisation has gone as far as it can.
7. What [traditional] retail businesses do you admire?
Honestly, none of them. There is no high street business that knows me or treats me better than Amazon, ASOS, AO.com and Wiggle. All of these guys start with the customer and work backwards, whereas the high street guys just don’t get it and play with online as a necessary evil.
8. If you hadn’t been a retailer/service-provider-to-retail what would you have liked to do?
I wanted to be a journalist. Thank god I failed the interview!
9. Marks out of 10?
Ask my wife and daughters.
10. Who would you place in the Multi-channel Movers & Shakers 2016?
Well, I disagree with most of your top 10 (for 2015), including me! I think those working for big corporates are not the real movers and shakers. I love the founders, the small guys, the entrepreneurs. I love John Roberts, Matt Moulding, Nick Robertson when he was leading the charge. I think Gareth Williams at Skyscanner has done a phenomenal job (Why is he not on your list?!
PS. Skyscanner is a one of the SEP (Scottish Equity Partners) portfolio company’s hence I declare an interest, but even so Gareth is a star.