My thoughts on Retail-Week Etail Powerlist 2015

Our industry is stifled by normality in many areas, so it’s great to be able to celebrate the champions that are driving change and progression of the retail industry.

A place on this list is both sought after and not easily achieved. Having featured on the list, I understand what it takes and applaud those who have made the cut this year for their contribution to the retail industry, their vision and leadership.

So what do we make of this year’s list? For me, it’s clear that change and new perspectives are in the air. What’s particularly exciting is the range of businesses represented – not only in scale, but also the verticals they’re coming from and the diversity of roles held.

We’re seeing a shift in the dynamics of how retailers are operating. Classic top down ‘command and control’ is being challenged. A new breed of cross-functional collaboration driven by powerful technology platforms is delivering new upside into, and through, many businesses.

As the industry transitions to a more digitally focused and increasingly mobile future, recognition and reward are favouring those most willing to embrace change as an opportunity for new ideas and growth that wasn’t possible even three years ago.

Scanning the list, a few names stand out to illustrate this point. Jack Ma, who ranked number two this year, has consistently invested in and driven fresh thinking.

Shop Direct continues to inspire and with Alex Baldock (5) at the helm supported by Jonathan Wall (29) group ecommerce director, I’m not surprised.

As a massive fan of same day delivery, it’s good to see John Walden (6) continue to transform Argos into a truly exciting multi-channel player. Andy Harding (7) at House of Fraser has earned his reputation as a champion of digital and an evangelist of customer experience at board level.

New entrant Andrew Livingston (13), chief executive of Screwfix, is fast becoming an innovator to be watched and John Roberts (14), founder and chief executive of Ao.com, continues to impress with his brilliant business and absolute customer focus.

The Hut Group is developing into a smart and dynamic business under the guidance of founder and chief executive Matthew Moulding (17).

It’s great to see Adrian Letts (21) back at Tesco to lead its online sales in what I hope will be a new chapter for its digital business. The same can be said for Ross Avery (22), director of ecommerce at Waitrose, who could lead the supermarket to do something quite special online.

And finally, Nicole Vanderbilt (38), vice-president international at Etsy, another new entrant, who is driving a business that clearly understands the changing tide of retail and is ready to take calculated risks with new technologies.

Reading between the lines, the winners who will continue to feature at the top of this list will show a blend of new attributes.

They’ll recognise that the pace and impact of digital is only going to increase. Rather than a silo at the edge of the business, it’s now a central component that needs board level representation in every company.

They’ll have a mind that is open enough to fully explore and try out alternative approaches and new platforms with the potential to increase agility and make significant contributions to bottom line growth.

They’ll also sense that the size of a business is no indication of the impact it can have. Rather, it will come down to people and cultural attitude.

The individuals on the list are clearly pioneers, creating a pace of change within their businesses.

In this environment, the competition is going to have to up their game and try new things, or risk falling by the wayside.

So my challenge is to the people and businesses not (yet) on the list. How are you going make sure you are next year? What will you do differently in the coming 12 months that isn’t business as usual? Do you have a structure in place to embrace fresh thinking and enable true digital innovation at scale across your company?

Congratulations to all those who have been recognised this year. I’m already looking forward to the results the coming year will bring.

You can see the full Etail 50 list here on Retail-Week.

Scott Weavers-Wright, Scottww