Q&A with John Walden L1 Retail Advisory Board

L1 Retail Advisory Board – former Chief Executive of Home Retail Group

John Walden

Q: What attracted you to L1 Retail and why did you take up a position as an Advisory Board member?

It was really about personal fit as well as the investment philosophy. There are a lot of traditional non-executive opportunities, but many of them are passive and require less engagement. I am a recent and current chief executive and so I am used to operating at a more active level. I like the ‘licence to help’ and the opportunity to support management teams and guide the growth of L1 Retail portfolio companies over the long term.

Q:Do the tectonic shifts happening in many sectors, including retail, and changing customer expectations, also make this a more interesting role?

Yes, I think the marketplace does offer interesting opportunities right now. If you look country-by-country, or region- by-region, the challenges are different, but the themes are pretty consistent. Technology is rapidly affecting the way retail is conducted and that requires a long-term view.

Q:How are the challenges different in developed and developing retail markets?

There are several countries we are looking at where the retail industry is in earlier stages of development. In those markets, there are certainly lessons to apply from more-developed markets. But in those markets, the challenges will be more about finding models that consumers respond well to and having the ability to scale those models as the market develops. In other developed countries where there is more modern retail, I think the challenge will be to apply technology to modernise those markets.

Q:As a retailer, isn’t there something about data that makes the industry more exciting and more interesting because you get more insight more quickly?

Yes, that is absolutely right. Technology presents an opportunity to create new value. The use of data is a very big part of that. Digital shopping and digital resources available to consumers are a big part. I view data collection and data analytics as technology that opens up opportunities. That applies not just to customer data, but also to stocking and the ability to have the right products in the right locations. Promotional effectiveness is important to the retailer.