Blogs 29th May 2019 3 minutes read

How can retail leaders find their bearings in a sea of change?

Steve Baggi explains how Green Park’s latest research The DNA of Future Retail Leadership could provide the key. 

The high street has changed radically in recent years as retail evolves at a furious pace. As Green Park’s Co-Founder and Head of Green Park’s Retail & Consumer Practice, Steve Baggi sees senior retail teams struggling to cope with the blistering speed of sector transformation. It’s this unique insight that’s behind Green Park’s second large-scale survey of hundreds of Chairs, CEOs and senior executives from the retail sector across the world: The DNA of Future Retail Leadership.

Why is the report needed?

“Only 36% of respondents feel their company’s leadership team is moving fast enough to keep up with changing consumer behaviour.”

Three years ago, Green Park released the critically acclaimed DNA of the Future CEO report, which mapped out the necessary transition in skills sets for leaders to be fit for the future. The new report expands this theme to the full senior leadership team. Steve explains the new report is a natural progression, “we now have the additional insight to widen the scope of the previous study and address the additional questions being asked by CEOs in 2019.”

  • How do I adapt my team to meet the challenges ahead?
  • What leadership roles have adapted, and which new ones are required?
  • How do I ensure the continuous evolvement of our digital channels in line with the maturing market?
  • Do data professionals belong in the top team?
  • What does best practice organisational design of a leadership team look like today, and what will it look like tomorrow?

“Just 27% believe their leadership team has the digital expertise necessary for success in the future”

The report helps CEOs answer these questions and more, by identifying key challenges for retailers and the capabilities that top teams will need in the future. In Steve’s mind, these are areas where vital insight is lacking and the reason why the new report is so important to the sector:

“There have been extensive studies of retail transformation and the impact of changing consumer behaviour, but there’s nothing about the way it challenges leadership to adapt. Teams are under tremendous strain due to the level of change and there’s very little support and insight out there.”

“56% believe their leadership team is not diverse enough to properly reflect their customers.”

One key point that emerged from the report – supported by research by Green Park and DLA Piper – is that the most senior people driving strategy in the largest listed retail firms in the USA, UK and mainland Europe are not representative of the customer groups they serve. Both chairs and CEOs are still overwhelmingly likely to be white males. The sector simply cannot afford to alienate customers through a lack of diversity within leadership teams, as the report notes.

How was the report created?

The report was created in collaboration with two highly respected figures: Ian McGarrigle, Chairman of the World Retail Congress (UK), and Neela Montgomery, Chairwoman and CEO of US-based Crate & Barrel. Each brings a wealth of industry knowledge and experience. However, the bulk of the insight was provided by industry leaders worldwide. “We surveyed retailers around the globe and had in-depth interviews with hundreds of people at board level. Everyone was keen to participate as this is a very current issue,” says Steve.

The result of this extensive research is a detailed picture of leadership in crisis. The report identifies where the failures lie – and what can be done about them. For Steve, it’s all about supporting senior leaders and sparking much-needed discussions about a highly relevant topic:

“I hope the report helps current CEOs to review their leadership teams and plan for the changes required over the next five years – not just short-term skills, but the building blocks for leadership at all levels of their organisations. Ultimately, we want to create a debate and give leadership teams a clear idea of the questions they need to ask themselves. We want to help leadership teams stay relevant and succeed.”

The DNA of Retail Executive Teams of the Future report, co-authored by Steve Baggi, was released at the World Retail Conference on 14-16th May.


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