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Zoe Colegrave, head of online and marketing, Fortnum & Mason

 1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?


While there are many, growth in Asia is a current focus. We’ve successfully launched three shop-in-shops in Shinsegae’s department stores in Seoul and our relationship with Lane Crawford goes from strength to strength. This year we’ve re-evaluated how to best accommodate what is a complex and dynamic market, looked at ways of shoring up our existing and active customer base, and developed a roadmap to growth beyond. It’s an exciting time for the business.

2.What is the biggest challenge to your business?

Fortnum’s is a brand with a wonderful legacy, and stories that span three centuries – and so continuing to expand while remaining true to our reason for being will always be a challenge (although we’ve certainly come a long way from Mr Fortnum and his candle wax). This is also true when it comes to communicating what makes Fortnum’s so special in new markets with adequate cross-cultural fluency.

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

Challenged myself to have been faster and braver with making change happen and building out team capability and size to ensure pace in delivering our ambition is built on a thriving and motivated team.

4. What is the future of the physical store and the high street?

Our Piccadilly flagship is the purest distillation of our brand, with fans of Fortnum’s speaking of their visits as almost a pilgrimage they want to make to enjoy the full Fortnum’s experience, but the convenience and accessibility of our online offer means they can keep enjoying our products, whenever and wherever in the world they may be. So long as we continue to deliver our signature sense of pleasure to customers through any interaction they have with us, then we firmly believe our physical stores will keep going from strength to strength; so much so that we’ve opened a new store at the Royal Exchange in the heart of the City of London and continue our expansion into Asia. Ultimately humans are highly sensory beings, and for a brand like Fortnum’s that means a physical presence will always have relevance.

5. What technology-related plans have you got for the next 12 months?

We’re the lion’s share through a heavy-weight project to upgrade our ERP, which gives us a really stable foundation on which to continue to develop our e-commerce business. Specific focus remains on improving user experience on mobile, delivering on our mantra to be ‘more relevant, to more people, more of the time’ through an increasingly personalised experience and ensuring that we apply that to our growing global audience through much greater internationalisation of our site. In the immediate term, we’re excited to be launching the Apptus AI-powered auto-merchandising tool across our site, to not only give users a far more personalised experience, but also drive real organisational efficiencies.

6. With the issue of digital wildfire how do you understand and control your growing digital landscape?

In this era of fake news it’s often hard to know what to believe. Add to this the seeming wanton defiance of the old motto of, ‘If you haven’t got anything nice to say, then best say nothing at all’ as detractors hide behind a cloak of relative anonymity, then it might feel the digital landscape is something very scary and which needs to be controlled. However, if you stay true to a firm set of values and listen and respond carefully to what your customers have to say, then you should be able to navigate the landscape and have less cause to try to control.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

AO.com has 1.7 million highly engaged Facebook followers…and they sell fridge freezers.

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

I did Zoology at Uni and loved every moment of it, but David Attenborough’s still doing the job I wanted (and thank goodness for that of course!).

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

Seven…but with so much continual change, some days it feels like much less is being achieved!

10. Who would you place in the Top 25 Movers & Shakers in Retail?

Richard Cristofoli [MD of beauty and marketing] at Debenhams

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.