RetailCraft 21 – “One-way and two-way doors” – Chris Poad, Managing Director, Online at Tesco PLC

Chris Poad, Managing Director, Online at Tesco PLC joins us in the studio for a wide-ranging and extensive discussion. Fresh from a series of senior roles at Amazon (heading Fulfilment by Amazon, then Director, Amazon Business International), Chris has returned to the UK to take up the reins at Tesco’s online activities – just in time to be in the eye of the COVID storm! 

We segue from his career to the Tesco response – an impressive and sustained activity at scale – and we learn about the values that drove the work, the decision-making approaches, and how the team runs under such great pressure.

The interview is chock-full of insights, expressed with clarity and openness – it’s a privileged view inside Tesco at a defining time. There are too many quotable nuggets to list here, but the title of this podcast references a perceptive classification of decision-making – jump to 22m10s if you can’t bear to wait! It’s worth it.

Our thanks to Chris for giving us so much time, and we’ll pick up with him again post-Christmas to see how the peak-upon-peak of trading turned out.

Run time: 38 minutes


Chris Poad:

Ian and

Jamie Merrick:

Recorded remotely and at Spiritland Studios, UK.

Episode photo credit: Ian Jindal.

RetailCraft 20 – “60,000 in 90 days” – Mark Wright of Fat Face and Murray Lambell of eBay UK

A bumper edition for the stifling dog-days of August! 

We kick off with an in-depth chat with Mark Wright, Group Operations Director at Fat Face. Mark’s got an incredible track record in retail – online, offline and multichannel – with stints as head of trading at M&S and as Managing Director, Omnichannel and Jack Wills. His role at Fat Face covers all operations and trading and so it was interesting to get his reflections upon the lockdown, recovery and impact. Mark’s a direct and generous guest and so there’s no holding back!

After Mark we hear from Murray Lambell, the VP of Trading at eBay UK. Murray’s role is to help major retailers and brands get onto the eBay platform and there are some suprises here, with no hard sell. 27 million (yes, million) active customers on eBay are the “bait” for sellers, and Murray’s team look at what they’re are searching for, identify gaps, and then approach retailers and brands to take up that demand. Murray shares  with us the partnership approach and, as if a jolt were needed this year, points out that 60,000 sellers have joined eBay in the last 90 days! Busy, busy times indeed.

Run time: 53 minutes


Mark Wright:

Murray Lambell:

Ian and

Jamie Merrick:

Recorded remotely and at Spiritland Studios, UK.

Episode photo credit: Ian Jindal.

RetailCraft 19 – “Make your gran proud” – Lockdown with The Hut Group’s Aaron Winsloe and CEO and Founder John Roberts

Still in lockdown limbo, we use the internet to speak with two guests from the beauty and electricals sectors.

First up is Aaron Winsloe, the Head of eCommerce USA for The Hut Group. We spoke with Aaron in his new office just before the group results were announced – an impressive 24% revenue growth to £1.1bn and a 22% increase in profits. With 66% of group turnover coming from the international operations, it was a timely moment to catch up with Aaron, and in particular the trading and learning experience over COVID.

Next up is John Roberts, founder and CEO of John has some very pithy sayings, as well as a lovely ‘origin story’ for how ‘Appliances Online’ (as it was 20 years ago) was founded. This interview was recorded as a keynote for IRX Engage’s inaugural digital event, and in discussion we hear about the ‘pivot’ to a direct-selling brand and the values that underpin the business’ success.  The sound quality is more “phone line” than “BBC Studio” but John is such a compelling speaker that we had to share the interview.

Run time: 26 minutes.


Aaron Winsloe:

John Roberts:

Ian and

Jamie Merrick:

Recorded remotely and at Spiritland Studios, UK.

Episode photo credit: Ian Jindal.

RetailCraft episode 18 – Pet Mate and The Watch Shop

As Lockdown continued, we caught up with our guests ‘over the web’.

Our first guest is Gracia Amico: chair, non-executive advisor and experienced CEO. In the past, she’s held senior digital and commercial roles at Burberry, TopShop and Hobbs, as well as CEO at Pets Pyjamas. After a period as Head of Digital Operations at Sun Capital, Gracia is now a non-executive Director at Stitched (the online curtains and blinds seller) and Chair of the pet technology company, Pet Mate.

With Gracia we learn about the dynamics of the ‘pet’ market, discuss the role of the CEO and the skills needed as Chair, and touch on an investor view of the skills needed to thrive as we emerge from lockdown.

Robin Phillips is our next guest. Robin is the CEO of The Watch Shop, but his career has seen him cover the gamut of ecommerce. He was Ecommerce Director at Waitrose, then Director of Omnichannel for Boots, before joining Kurt Geiger as Director of Digital. Robin’s experience then across fashion, food and pharmacy mean that he’s got a unique take on retail over the COVID lockdown, as well as some interesting insights on how The Watch Shop can be a brand platform for watch brands to sell. 

Run time: 40 minutes.


Gracia Amico:

Robin Phillips:

Ian and

Jamie Merrick:

Recorded remotely and at Spiritland Studios, UK.

Episode photo credit: Ian Jindal.

Alexander Wang Inc and De Bijenkorf join our ‘Lockdown Listening’ #Retailcraft podcast, episode 17

Thoroughly grounded in London, I luckily had some interviews from the ’time when travel was allowed’ and so we hear from Rikard Frost, Chief Consumer Officer of Alexander Wang Inc, when we visited him in New York City in January 2020. Then, further back in time, we chat with Pieter Heij, Multichannel Director at De Bijenkorf, the Netherland’s premier department store (and part of the Selfridges group). We chatted with Pieter just before an autumn dinner in Amsterdam – such proximity is much missed as we socially distance!

HMV – media commentary

HMV announced on 28 December, 2018 that they were appointing KPMG as administrators, following  “a “tsunami” of retail challenges, including business rate levels and the move to digital”, according to Hilco, the restructuring group who rescued the retailer in 2013.

This is sad news for the retail sector, and for music-lovers who remember the age of dominance of HMV and Virgin Megastores (who at the time were challenging HMV as the ‘traditional giant’). 

Hilco mention a ‘tsunami’ and I think that this is the key point. No one factor killed off HMV – not digital downloads, not rates, not changes in consumption and the music industry… Rather, these factors have all been accelerating and working in unison. 

This is the inflexion point where a slope turns into a cliff.

I was invited to comment on the news both on Sky News and on LBC that evening and my clips are below.

For information, here’s the PDF case study from Hilco’s site to show how 5 years is a long time in retail, as well as to hope that there’ll be a further incarnation for HMV in 2019…

HMV commentary – Sky News, 28 December, via Skype

Speaking at PostNord’s Ehandelsforum in Boräs, Denmark

I was pleased to renew my co-operation with the team at Postnord’s Ehandeldsforum and travel to Boräs in Denmark to speak at their 2017 event.

The venue was fantastic – a former train maintenance shed that had been converted into an event space – and the production values were extremely high.

My keynote opening session was a Q&A and I was grilled, supported and made to look sensible by the excellent chairing of the day’s host, Beata Wickbom.

Jessie Baker speaking on Blockchain

Webwanderings for June 25th through June 26th

These are my links for June 25th through June 26th:

  • Coca-Cola European Partners to invest £39m in UK facility | FoodBev Media – Infrastructure and investment. Part of the ongoing IR theme that in order to success in the post-retail age you need invention, investment and integrity (less so ‘just’ innovation, which in a competitive sector is widespread).
  • Edge Cases For Self Driving Cars – Rodney Brooks
  • The key to jobs in the future is not college but compassion | Aeon Essays – Twin argument of ‘caring/emotional’ work in the future and the fact that never-ending education is not a solution. Example being an overqualified doctor working 80 hours a week, but lacking empathy… when AI can diagnose more effectively where is the new value?”The US economists W Norton Grubb and Marvin Lazerson call the belief in more schooling as the solution to every labour problem the ‘education gospel’. As Grubb argued in a 2005 talk, having more education tends to help individuals find better work, but that doesn’t make schooling a good overall economic strategy. In fact, he said, 30 to 40 per cent of workers in developed countries already have more education than their jobs demand.”
  • Opinion | The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence – “Service jobs of love” and ‘strength negate strength’. The impact of AI will concentrate power in the hands of the us and china, and leave only ’emotional’ and interface jobs.
    Interesting article.
    Note too the characterisation of current AI as ‘spreadsheets on steroids’ – main point being that solutions are domain- and purpose-specific at present, not overarching ‘intelligence’.

10 years of InternetRetailing Conference

I can hardly believe that it’s 10 years since we started InternetRetailing but 14 October brings the 10th anniversary conference –

It’s a lovely lineup of speakers as ever, and our thanks go to them for their contribution to insight and inspiration in our industry.

I reflect on some of the changes in the last decade on, here:

InternetRetailing Conference – 10th Annual event on 14 October, 2015