Blackwood’s client is a UK based, leading international discount retailer of lifestyle, fashion, sports apparel and footwear with transactional websites in 25+ European markets. Founded 25 years ago as a direct catalogue business, it now has a turnover in excess of £100m with double digit EBITDA. An initial management buy-out took place in 2004 with a successful exit to an international private equity fund in 2007. Part way through the investment cycle, a new CEO was sought to drive more aggressive growth of the company, and Blackwood worked closely with the private equity investor and the Chairman (the former CEO and a major shareholder) to define the requirements for the position.
With a heritage in discount catalogue retailing, the business combined strong trading capability and direct marketing expertise, but was less developed in its understanding and use of digital marketing techniques. In order to compete effectively in the market, it needed to develop a more creative approach to marketing and to customer interaction and experience and a dynamic approach to online selling. The incoming CEO needed to have a strong pedigree in online commercial leadership, good technical understanding of digital marketing and a record of driving online growth ahead of the market. As a major local employer with loyal and long-serving staff, the company has a close-knit culture, and it was important for the CEO to recognise and effectively harness this, providing clear leadership to a well-established senior management team whilst meeting the requirements of the investors.
Candidates considered were CEOs, Managing Directors, ECommerce and Multichannel Directors of online retailers and other consumer-facing transactional businesses with equivalent or higher revenues and significant growth. It was acknowledged early in the process that previous private equity experience would need to be secondary to technical understanding of ecommerce. Similarly, the client was willing to consider a first time CEO, acknowledging that the location of the head office would substantially limit the number of candidates. The company is based in a rural area and required relocation or a willingness to commute weekly.
The successful candidate had a background in leading online divisions in retail and consumer services companies, with general management experience underpinned by a functional background in marketing in both retail and consumer goods.