Over the past couple of weeks have seen leadership dominating the retail headlines. Suzanne Given parted company with Supergroup. John Allen was appointed Chairman of Tesco. Then John King stepped down from CEO at HoF, quickly followed by John Browett after two years as CEO of Monsoon Accessorize. Then came news that the CEO of Majestic Wines Steve Lewis has stepped down while Allan Leighton has stepped up to be Chairman of the Co-op and David Potts is now officially the new CEO at Morrisons. In today’s far tougher trading climate the strengths and weaknesses of businesses are far more exposed, and it follows that their leaders will be too.
Until not so long ago, leadership was much less critical. Trading in the slipstream of rising real incomes and growing credit papered over the plethora of structural weaknesses of many retailers – life was relatively easy. Now leadership is at the top of the agenda, where it should be. And the key strategic challenges faced today are quite different, and therefore the skills required to grow effectively in this market are similarly changed.
We will be seeing many more changes at the top. There has been lots of whistling in the dark about how positive this year will be. It won’t. That’s not being negative. But prices are – price deflation is the name of the game. It’s simply a reading of the cold hard facts. The revolving door will be working overtime for much of this year. The need for leaders with strategic nous, emotional intelligence and above all, an understanding of how to sell, has never been greater. There are not many that tick these boxes.