Retail is changing faster than ever as brands become truly digital-led. Innovation is championed by those with the desire to succeed and drive change, whether through that’s what they are doing themselves or by inspiring others via sharing stories, insight and research about what’s happening in the market.
But who are these people? Who are the chief technology officers, retail founders and retail commentators and practitioners that retailers respect and listen to when it comes to innovation?
Below we have compiled a list of 15 influential innovators in retail today, drawn across the different categories.
1) Paul Clarke – chief technology officer at Ocado
As the world’s largest online-only grocery retailer Ocado knows a thing or two about innovation. The company’s technology not only fuels the grocery business itself but it also used to fuel other businesses too. At the heart of all this is chief technology officer Paul Clarke who has held the CTO role at Ocado since January 2012. In his own words “It’s not about how fast we innovate, it’s about how fast we innovate our innovation factory.” As a result, it means that Paul is highly respected in retail and many look to both him and Ocado as inspiration for where they should be heading next.
2) Doug Stephens, founder and president of Retail Prophet
Envisaging the future of retail is no easy task. But it’s what Doug Stephens, founder and president of retail advisory firm Retail Prophet, does best. Following a twenty-plus year career in retail Stephens now helps to advise retailers and brands on what future strategy should look like. He has also written two books on the future of retail looking at the new age of consumerism and how to sell in a post-digital world. As well as sharing his views online he is a big influence on the speaker circuit too.
3) Anna Barsby, chief technology director at WM Morrison Supermarkets
Anna Barsby is a former CIO of Halfords and was ranked number 1 in the 2015 CIO 100 and was a finalist in the European CIO of the year. Since summer 2016 she has been chief technology director at supermarket giant Morrisons where she was listed at 34 in the CIO 100 list for 2018 and within the top three for retail. She leads a new technology innovation team which is focused on driving change and improving the business with new digital and data initiatives, such as the use of voice. She works closely with local schools and also sponsors diversity and inclusion both within the business and the industry.
4) Matthew Shay, president and CEO of National Retail Federation
As the world’s largest retail trade association the National Retail Federation has to ensure it makes the voice of the industry heard when it comes to all things retail. Positioning retail in the digital forefront is vital and is a role that falls to Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the association since 2010. He has fought hard to lead digital change and encourage retailers to be brave when it comes to taking the plunge and invest and implement new digitally-led strategies that will better equip them for the future.
5) Jonathan Wall, chief digital officer at Missguided
At the heart of all things digital and mobile is Jonathan Wall. Currently chief digital officer at Missguided since joining last year he is responsible for driving the fashion retailer’s digital experience ever onward. Previously he led the digital and mobile charge at Shop Direct where he was group ecommerce director for more than seven years. He realised the value of mobile as early as 2010 and established and chaired a digital board at the retailer to ensue the retail group was truly listening and responding to the needs of its customers.
6) George MacDonald, executive editor of Retail Week
As executive editor and a veteran of 20 years at business publication Retail Week, George certainly knows a thing or two about retail. He has strong links to all the leading players in the industry and is in charge of all of Retail Week’s editorial content. If anyone knows best how much technology and innovation is changing the face of retail as we know it it’s George.
- LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/george-macdonald-04118b4/
- Twitter @GeorgeMacD
7) Natalie Berg, retail analyst, author and founder at NBK Retail
With more than 15 years’ experience heading research teams at analyst firms from Planet Retail to Kantar, Natalie now runs her own consultancy and specialises in strategy and future trends. Her views are much sought after and she has published research on everything from the convergence of physical and digital retail to the store of the future. 2019 will see the publication of her most recent book which will examine Amazon’s role in shaping the future of retail.
8) Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon
If we are talking about influencers in retail they don’t come much bigger and inspirational than the founder and chief executive of Amazon. Jeff Bezos and the giant he has created have completely changed customer expectations on everything from price to convenience of delivery. It’s a model many would love to emulate but Jeff got there first and is reaping the rewards from it. He is known for his constant drive for innovation and is a man who isn’t content with sitting still.
- Twitter @JeffBezos
9) George Goley, chief technology officer of Holland and Barrett
With a career history that spans Microsoft, Amazon, Sears and Home Retail Group today George Goley is chief technology officer of Holland and Barrett, a company he moved to in September 2018. He spent more than three years at Sainsbury’s-Argos, most recently as CTO, where his brief was to continue the transformation of the retail industry and where one of his peers said he “raised the bar of the tech agenda to unprecedented levels”. Argos has been one of the biggest innovators in terms and it was George’s responsibility to develop the systems capable of such transformational change. It will be interesting to hear what his brief is at Holland and Barrett.
10) Andrew Busby, founder and CEO of Retail Reflections
In 2015 Andrew Busby, a former retailer and technology specialist set up the Retail Advisory Board – an invitation-only retail discussion group aimed at sharing ideas and insight. Today he sits on various retail advisory boards and also runs Retail Reflections, an analyst organisation that focuses on writing and speaking about retail to share knowledge and best practise within the industry.
- Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewbusby-retailreflections/
- Twitter @andrewbusby
11) Bob Strudwick, CTO of ASOS
Fashion giant ASOS has, like Amazon, rewritten the rulebook around fashion retailing and innovation is at its heart. But innovation needs the right technology and platform behind it and it’s here that specialist knowledge is required. Bob Strudwick has held the role of chief technology officer at the fashion giant for the past two years and has been part of the technology team for the past seven. It is he that is responsible for driving the transformation of the company’s software design and development capabilities that allows ASOS to deliver constant newness.
12) Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane, co-chief executives of Boohoo
A fashion giant that has emerged only in the last few years Boohoo Group is increasingly a force to be reckoned with, particularly when it comes to young fashion. The power duo of Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane have been co-chief executives since launch. The group now includes brands from Boohoo to PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Girl. To deal with its next stage of growth a new CEO will join in March 2019, at which point Mahmud will assume the role of group executive chairman and Carol of group co-founder and executive director.
13) Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail (formerly Conlumino)
Based in Arizona Neil Saunders is a retail analyst and consultant who works with retailers to help them decide on both current and future strategy. As well as helping retailers directly he’s also a regular speaker on the conference circuit where he says he likes nothing better than sharing information, insight and analysis in what he promises is a relevant, actionable and exciting way.
14) Sean McKee, director of e-commerce and customer services, Schuh
At Schuh technology and innovation is at the heart of what the retailer does to improve the buying experience for customers. From receipts to in-store kiosks that have real-time stock availability and social media feeds to keep customers engaged, the retailer works hard to innovate. A key driver in this hunger for change is director of e-commerce and customer services Sean McKee. As well as leading change internally McKee is also passionate about sharing what he has done, inspiring others as a result.
15) Deborah Weinswig, CEO and founder of Coresight Research
As an experienced retail and retail technology analyst Deborah Weinswig has forged a career analysing the impact of technology on the future of global retail. She advises companies worldwide on the changes that will transform their business and is also an advisor to a number of start-ups and accelerators, as well as being a board member of a number of global companies. She is a regular on the speaker circuit and is based in New York.
Originally published Oct 30, 2018, updated Jan 16, 2023