River Island’s CEO Richard Bradbury On Growth Of Online
Last night I attended a fantastic event with Manchester Fashion Network, a Q&A evening with River Island’s CEO Richard Bradbury.
Richard has certainly ‘done his time in retail’ as he’s worked his way up from his retail position in Great Yarmouth all the way through to becoming the Chief Executive Officer at leading fashion retail company River Island. At River Island Richard is responsible for the growth and expenditure of the continued success of the multi million pound turn-over that the top high street retailer secures.
It was a Q&A style evening, attended by around 90 people, where Richard talked very openly about his background, the River Island story and how it was originally born from the Chelsea Girl brand, the growth and importance of online for River Island, along with a range of questions from the floor, including a couple from me.
Questions ranged from what advice Richard would give to aspiring fashion designers (including a group from Manchester Met that I was sat with), how can new supplier’s best get their foot in the door and compete against supplier’s in the far east and eastern Europe, along with me asking about the their online operation.
My 2 questions where:
PR: You have mentioned about how successful your e-commerce site is for River Island. Can you provide some insights into what growth you have seen over the last 2 years with online, and what % of sales come through this channel compared to the high street?
In response Richard replied:
RB: Online is hugely significant for our business and is growing constantly, although I can’t share more than that! We have won awards for our website and we are currently on the 3rd generation.
PR: Your website is flash based, which is almost exclusive in the online retail sector. Is this an intended differentiator for your business (Richard had earlier talked about some of the ways River Island ‘do things differently’ and ‘do what works for them and their customers’), and what else can you tell us about your approach to online?
RB: We are actually in the process of moving away from our current flash based retail site. This evolvement has taken longer than we had anticipated although we are due to launch our new site later this year.
Later in the evening after the official Q&A’s had finished I grabbed a few more minutes with Richard, (who I must say is one of the most down to earth CEO’s I have had the pleasure of speaking to!) where I asked a few more questions regarding their e-commerce operation and the strategy for moving onto a much more trackable, personalised and best practice driven e-commerce operation.
Without disclosing too much here Richard shared some really interesting insights, and I’ll be watching with interest to see how 2009 shapes up for River Island business, in what is extremely challenging market conditions.