Speaker Profiles


Helen Dickinson

Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium

Helen leads the BRC team and is responsible for the strategic direction and performance of the BRC. She brings a wealth of experience working with retailers for over 20 years. Helen took her role at the BRC on 1 January 2013 and is very privileged to have the opportunity of driving the BRC’s mission to make a positive difference to the retail industry through advancing vibrant and consumer focused retail and helping to shape the future of the industry, working with their members and diverse stakeholders. Helen was previously Head of Retail at KPMG, where she had overall responsibility for leading and developing KPMG’s retail practice in the UK. Over her KPMG career, Helen worked with retailers across all sectors and led the relationships and the audits for many clients since becoming a partner in 2002.
Helen is also Chairman for Working Chance, a great charity with a fresh approach to helping women offenders find rewarding, quality employment and has a passion for the development of the retail industry’s female talent and is a Judge of the Everywoman Retail Ambassadors Programme.

Paul Anderson-Walsh

Director at the The Centre for Inclusive Leadership

Having begun his career in retail as a men and women’s fashion buyer, Paul has been a L&D practitioner since 1997. He is co-founder of The Centre for Inclusive Leadership. He is an author, conference speaker, executive life coach and mentor. The common thread through his work is his desire to help people realise their full potential. Regardless of the context Paul’s unique gift in being able to communicate people’s self-worth and expand their horizons is truly extraordinary.
In addition to his corporate work, Paul is the Chair of Ella Forums CIC. This community interest organisation inspires leaders of charities and social enterprises to be better than they believed possible. He is also a well-respected commentator who is called upon by the BBC and is a regular radio contributor and founder of The Grace Project.

Linbert Spencer OBE

Director at the The Centre for Inclusive Leadership

Linbert is an international consultant, trainer and coach. He has facilitated seminars and workshops in America, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guernsey, Holland, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Uganda, Zimbabwe as well as in the UK.
He has been described as an innovative, inspirational facilitator with proven experience of effective board level interventions and leadership team development.
Linbert has appeared twice on BBC Television's Question Time, is a prolific public speaker, has contributed to a large number of publications and written two books - The Diversity Pocketbook and How to Build a Multi-ethnic Church. He has recently co-authored Introducing the Business of Inclusion with Paul Anderson-Walsh.

Jason Cotta

Managing Director at Costa UK and Ireland

Jason has spent the majority of his career working in the hospitality industry having begun his career with Tesco and then holding senior roles at TGI Fridays, Travelodge and Care UK.
He joined Costa as Operations Director in 2010 with the role of overseeing and improving the operational efficiency of the UK store network, which stood at around 900 coffee shops at the time.
In 2013 Jason was promoted to the role of Managing Director for the UK Retail business, which included all equity and individual franchise stores with great success.
In May 2015 Jason moved to the international division and was appointed as Managing Director, EMEI where he had the responsibility of replicating the success of the UK business to 30 international markets.
He’s since moved back to the UK&I business to undertake the role of Managing Director across a growing estate of over 2,000 shops. Costa has been awarded the nation’s favourite coffee shop for the eighth consecutive year and is the fastest growing coffee shop business in the UK.

David Meckin

Managing Director at Insight Financial Consulting

David Meckin has held several senior management positions including that of Finance Director of a multi-national business. As Managing Director of Insight Financial Consulting he regularly delivers management workshops and presents at conferences, both in the United Kingdom and abroad. He also coaches senior executives in a variety of organisations and is regularly called upon to assess the business and financial acumen of prospective CEOs around the globe. Clients, past and present, include numerous FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, along with many leading international brands.
Over the years, he has developed a reputation for “turning complexity into simplicity”, making the world of finance and investment interesting, easy to understand and even fun! David is the author of “How To Grow Your Own Money” - a jargon-free, step-by-step guide to the principles of investing. He is also the author of “Naked Finance”, which has sold all over the world, providing non-financial managers with all the core skills and understanding they need to make financially sound managerial decisions.

Anthony Thompson

CEO at FatFace

Anthony Thompson was appointed Chief Executive Officer of FatFace in 2010.
He joined the company after a successful stint as Managing Director of clothing brand George (Asda Group).
Anthony has come a long way since his first role as a Shop Assistant for M&S in 1983. Following 12 years learning the craft he became a retail consultant in 1995 for Arthur Andersen, working with clients such as Sears, Sainsbury’s and Blackwells. Then in 1998 he became Managing Director of Blackwells.
In 2000, Anthony joined Gap UK as Vice-President then Senior Vice-President of Gap Europe in 2001. He then returned to his roots at M&S for a 5-year spell before taking over at Asda clothing brand George in 2007.
During his after-dinner talk Anthony will share his experiences of leadership and delivering commercial success.

Sarah Hillas

Partner at Passionbrand Progress

  • 20 years global marketing experience, working on Johnson & Johnson’s most iconic brands: Johnson’s Baby, Neutrogena, Clean & Clear
  • Founder member of Johnson & Johnson global Marketing Excellence team
  • Developed Johnson & Johnson Marketing Capability Diagnostic tool
  • Has run marketing capability-building workshops in over 30 countries on four continents

Helen Edwards

Partner at Passionbrand Progress

  • London Business School MBA. PhD in marketing
  • Lectures on the MBA brand management elective at London Business School, member of the London Business School Executive Education team
  • Co-author, ‘Creating Passion Brands: How to build emotional brand connection with customers’
  • Award-winning columnist on branding for Marketing Magazine

Tim Woollias

Industry Head - Retail at Google

Tim joined Google in 2011, where he runs a retail team working with a broad mix of multi-channel and pureplay retailers.
Tim started his career as a Management Trainee with British Gas, after graduating from Lady Margaret Hall (just up the road from Keble) sometime in the last century! After British Gas came stints both offline and then on-line with Comet - Tim was employee no. 4 in the Comet Digital team and has been working in Digital since 2000. Next came Paddy Power, before taking a Board position at WEX photographic as eCommerce and Marketing Director.
This combination of retail experience and digital expertise make Tim very well qualified to bring you the latest developments in digital and how they will impact retailers over the coming years.

Katharine Ghela

Senior Organisation Change Team Manager at John Lewis

Katharine is currently Senior Organisation Change Team Manager in the John Lewis Partnership Personnel team. She and her colleagues lead the team who shape, facilitate and action the delivery of the people and organisational elements of change into the John Lewis Partnership. Previously she worked in a variety of branches and roles within John Lewis Retail. Most recently she was Head of Branch John Lewis, Watford and Commercial Manager Fashion, John Lewis Oxford Street. In both those roles she lead large teams and was responsible for up to £140m omni channel sales and believes passionately in striving to deliver outstanding customer service.

Christina Priestnall

Operations Manager Selling at John Lewis

Christina has been an Operations Manager at John Lewis Leicester since 2014 predominantly overseeing the selling landscape for the branch and the customer service offer.
Having completed her Masters in Chemistry at Edinburgh University, Christina joined John Lewis in 2009 and has held various positions in the business at Head Office and within branches nationwide, Christina played a key part in the development of the employee Customer Service training offer which has subsequently been rolled out to all areas of the business.

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