Guy Hipwell, non-executive director and investor
- What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
Diversity and the speed of technological change. As I work with businesses that range in value from revenues of sub $1 million to several billion dollars, I am very fortunate to be able to learn from experiences across a broad range of sectors and territories. As digital continues to grow, and with it the amount of noise and potential confusion, there will be an increase in demand for people who really understand the critical success factors for operating in this space and how they may vary from one business to another. There is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
- What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Lack of understanding of the basics and distraction within the businesses with whom I work or invest. There is a lot of noise and this sometimes makes it difficult for people to focus and understand that quite often the exciting topics might not be the most important. Things like the cost of your cardboard boxes or the fact that you haven’t secured any customers for your ‘state of the art’ SaaS solution can have a bigger impact on your business model than you expect, and I frequently find myself in situations where people can’t see the wood for the trees (or the cardboard boxes – Ed).
- With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
Spent more time on due diligence for some of my investments!
- What is the future of the physical store and the high street?
I think that the physical store will always be around. Humans are social animals and for certain purchases it makes sense to take a trip to a store. To bounce up and down on big ticket items like sofas and beds or simply to spend a couple of hours browsing with a friend or partner with similar interests. On that basis I think that retailers should always remember that it is a matter of choice for the customer as to whether or not they want to visit a specific store and the experience should reflect this. Nobody wants to spend a long time in a filthy box with terrible stock and rude staff.
- What technology-related plans have you got for the next 12 months?
I am working on some very exciting projects involving IOT, data and using technology to deliver significant positive impact rather than gimmicky solutions.
- With the issue of digital wildfire how do you understand and control your growing digital landscape?
I think it’s an interesting topic that will continue to be hotly debated. Personally I try to take a measured approach, search for supporting information and not react instantaneously – that’s probably more down to a natural result of the ageing process rather than a considered and applied strategy.
- What other retail business do you admire?
ASOS (still) – probably because I am old enough to remember when it was just Nick and Quentin running As Seen On Screen. Also Missguided, Boohoo, Burberry and Thread.com.
- If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do
Anything where I can be involved in delivering progress. I am very goal focused and like to be involved in moving things forward and seeing the results. I get a very positive feeling when I see something delivered, no matter how big or small – a project, a product, hitting financial targets. I get bored quickly when things aren’t moving and can become a little impatient.
- What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
I’d always rather be scored by my peers – it serves as a good reality check.
- Who would you place in the Top 25 Movers & Shakers in Retail?
Mahmud Kamani, Kieran O’Neil, Nitin Passi, Simon Mottram, and the Samwer brothers.
This is one in an ongoing series of Q&A’s with individuals that are featured in the annual ‘Retail Insider Movers & Shakers in Retail Top 100’ report.