Movers & Shakers Q&A: Jim Buckle, COO, FeelUnique

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Jim Buckle, COO, FeelUnique

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

The global beauty market is massive and, relatively, we are still a tiny pinprick.  We have the opportunity to double or triple the business in the next 5 years and still be tiny.

2.What is the biggest challenge to your business?

The market opportunity isn’t realised by doing one thing but by doing many things exceptionally well – there are lots of other businesses with the same aspiration as us.  This means the biggest challenge is deciding which things to work on and constantly re-evaluating those priorities.  We are a business of 200 people and so we have limited resources to apply to an almost unlimited range of opportunities.

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

Online is all about test and learn so you should never regret doing something.  The key to success is making fast decisions, trying things and learning from them.

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

The high street is becoming a mix of ultra convenience (a sandwich for lunch or a newspaper at the station) and more of a serendipitous browsing experience which may lead to a purchase in the store or might result in an online purchase later on.  There is a role for the corner shop selling crisps and Coke and a role for the Apple Store.  Each retailer needs to have a clear view about the purpose and economic value of their stores.  Stores may ‘lose’ money but be valuable brand-building as part of a joined up multi-channel strategy.  Having said that, I think Apple has gone almost too far in one direction – I tried to buy a phone case recently in the Covent Garden Apple Store and its almost impossible.

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

I don’t plan to share specifics!  To make our customer experience both quicker and easier but also more immersive and engaging, depending on the mood and goal of the customer.

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

This isn’t particularly an issue that we have.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

Its hard not to admire Amazon for the breadth of ambition and focus on the customer.  Its not so much a retailer as a brand, but (as a runner) I love Iffley Road, even if I can rarely afford to shop on the site.  Great products, well presented and with great content and engagement.

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

I have only worked in retail for 20% of my career so far so I am still a novice.

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

I don’t.  I’ve learnt that I am neither as bad as I think I am on a pessimistic day, or as good as I think I am on an optimistic day!

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

It’s a bit of a cliché but you can’t go wrong with Jeff Bezos.  He has built a company that is loved by consumers and feared by competitors.  I was lucky enough in my brief time working at Amazon (after the sale of LOVEFiLM) to have some first-hand exposure to his leadership.  What struck me most was the massive ambition – not in an egotistical way but the intellectual curiosity that there must be a better way to do stuff.  Combined with the focus on customers and on long term success over short term results, it makes for a powerful combination.

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.