What Does it Take to be a Mover and Shaker in Retail?

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Being a business that realises the value of inspiring change and investing in innovation is dependent upon having the right mindset within the company. As we have seen in our previous blog being a mover and shaker in retail isn’t necessarily restricted to being a first-mover in innovation. Instead, it’s about having the bravery to try new (or almost new) things.

This is Part 3 of our Voices of Retail Series. Check out the other posts:

It is about having the right people within the business who will inspire such a culture and create a hunger for innovation that drives all.

So what does it take to be a mover and shaker in retail? Having identified some of the most influential innovators in our previous blog in this series in this one we look at some of the common characteristics they share.

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Characteristic 1: A champion for the latest innovations

Mover and shakers realise the importance of innovation and have a hunger for it. They want to know what their rivals are doing, what best in class practise is and will have an appetite to integrate at least some elements of what they learn into their own businesses. They will also look outside of their sectors and see what other lessons they can learn. They are willing to share their learnings to inspire others too.

Jonathan Wall, now the chief digital officer at Missguided but previously group e-commerce director of Shop Direct, is a great example of this. He is an avid industry commentator and a creator of an experimentation culture at Shop Direct that paid dividends for the business.  When he left Shop Direct praised his role in building a multi-award winning e-commerce team as well as retail firsts such as Very.co.uk’s AI enabled chatbot.  Whilst at Shop Direct he was chairman of the Shop Direct Digital Advisory Board and in January he joined the board of tech start-up DigitalBridge, a company that develops space planning tools – showing how Wall shares his knowledge across sectors.

Characteristic 2: Inspirational leaders

The enthusiasm and hunger for knowing what is out there reap its own rewards since others will get caught up in the passion of someone truly committed to innovation. But as well as knowing how to inspire these are people that know how to really lead a business.

To look at someone who is an inspiration in himself in terms of his leadership style look no further than Amazon boss Jeff Bezos. In 1994 he founded the company as an online bookstore. apparently warning investors there was a 70% risk his business idea would fail. Today the company is THE internet success story and Bezos remains at the helm constantly pushing the company forward.

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Characteristic 3: Not afraid of failure

Movers and shakers in retail are brave. They aren’t daunted by the idea of failure. They aren’t afraid to take risks but they have generally calculated risks that they know will either work or, if they fail, will still teach a valuable lesson that was worth the risk.

Of course, some push harder than others. As we saw earlier Amazon’s constant stream of patent applications, shows how even fantastical ideas such as airship delivery docking stations aren’t out of the realm of imagination for someone like Jeff Bezos whilst the investor warning we mentioned earlier shows he doesn’t fear to get things wrong.

Characteristic 4: Encourages the up and coming

Whilst inspirational leaders are all well and good being a true influencer is also about inspiring the leaders of tomorrow too. At Morrisons Anna Barsby, the supermarket giant’s chief technology director since 2016, works hard to encourage those around her – both within the business and at lower levels too. She established a diversity and inclusion group within her technology function at Morrisons which she is now sponsoring across the business. She is also working hard to encourage youngsters into the world of retail and retail technology through active partnerships with local schools, which has seen for example Morrisons developers offer training for school coding clubs.


We have picked just four of the main characteristics of movers and shakers in retail in our examples above but they are some of the most important. They show that those who embrace innovation do so with open minds. They take risks for the good of their business but encourage their staff to join them on the innovation journey. They create exciting, vibrant places in which to work and get their whole teams excited about what they do. Most importantly, however, they embrace all the opportunities open to them. Perhaps their approach is again best summed up by Jeff Bezos:

“If you decide that you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table.”

It’s time to go grab that opportunity yourself.

Not quite ready to shake things up? Take inspiration from our Voices of Retail series:


    Liz has more than fifteen years experience in retail journalism and is a regular writer for a range of titles including Internet Retailing and eDelivery.net as well as being a former features editor of Retail Week. She has also been a regular contributor to Retail Systems, FSTech, and Drapers.

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