Masters 2016 - 11th Year of Learning

Published by on Monday, 04 Apr 2016

March this year saw another phenomenal Masters programme which confronted, discussed and addressed the main challenges not only of Retailing today, but Retailing in the future.

Day 1

Day one saw our expert panel of Steve Finlan (Chief Commercial Officer, Clarks), Sohail Shaikh (Managing Director Asia, Mothercare) and Nicola Harrison (News Editor, Retail Week) leading discussion, debate and providing their thinking ona wide range of questions including:
• What does the future balance between store-based & non-store retail channels look like?
• What kinds of technology will pose the biggest forthcoming challenges in Retail?
• How will customer loyalty play out?
• What does the future hold for premium v discounting?
• What are the prospects for Black Friday and other forms of promotional activity?

We learned about the need to create Retailing “spiders’ webs” of connectivity to encourage customers to stick with you. Equally the importance of an online presence with websites and social media without necessarily having to have a fully functioning e-commerce offer. To that end we also learned about the advantages of being followers/later adopters of technology rather than the leaders, enabling the initial learning and mistakes to be addressed. Finally, we established that Black Friday may well be subsumed by Black November!

New Look CEO Anders Kristiansen headlined the day with his distinctive views and insights into the future of Retailing and how New Look is positioning itself with strategies including expansion in China as well as Menswear standalone stores in the UK. Above all, Anders explained that the future ways of retailing for New Look lay largely in the hands of the customers, with his over-riding message “However customers want to shop with us, we’ll enable it to happen”.

Day 2

With the picture of the future acting as a platform, day two enabled the Masters’ cohort to undertake their own research and investigations into where Retailing is heading, using the extensive research available at the Said Business School as well as access to industry experts. This investigative and diagnostic approach resulted in presentations of their findings in the main Auditorium to the whole Masters’ cohort.

We learned about:
• Societal changes and the impact on retailing
• Polarisation of consumer behaviour
• Retail personalisation
• Children as influencers of buying habits
• The development of highly informed customers
• The growing challenge of trading internationally
• Winners and losers in international retailing
• Genetic and geographical changes in demand
• Technological advancements – the areas to back; and those to avoid.

The day culminated with Alan Giles who is an Honorary Visiting Professor at the Cass Business School, Associate Fellow at Said Business School as well as holding various Non-Exec Director roles, sharing his experiences from the boardroom, addressing the challenges and strategies around the customer, technology, international markets and external stakeholders. As ever, Alan offered stimulating insight, guidance and practical advice to the cohort.

Day 3

Day three found the 2016 cohort examining 3 critical leadership concepts and most importantly applying the thinking to their own business. Rupert Eastell (Partner & Head of Retail for RSM) and Martin Clifford-King (former CFO for numerous retailers) enabled the cohort to become even more adept around financial leadership, examining both the current trends as well as the fundamentals.

The afternoon provided the cohort with insights and learning into how to enhance their commercial leadership. This highly participative and interactive session built upon real examples across the business world from Dr Jonathan Reynolds (Said Business School) and Mike Parkes (Momentum Results LLP). Finally, Mike Hawes (VP Global Organisation Development, Avis Budget Group) shared his wealth of people leadership experience with examples, hints, tips and practical guidance gleaned from a career in a range of major Retailers.

Day 4

Day four commenced with our 2016 cohort demonstrating their ability to apply their learning alongside their experience by providing innovative strategic propositions for a diverse range of Retailers. Their propositions were pitched to our hugely respected and experienced Retail Panel, led by Hilary Shepherd (Owner, Maureen Cookson) with Simon Smith (Chief Restructuring Officer/Interim CEO, Ben Sherman) and Jo Walker (Director, the Fragrance Market). 

Our final day keynote speaker, Shankar Patel, (CEO of Lords Group of Companies) provided a stimulating, inspiring and insightful session where he shared the Lords story but also provided his own personal learning and core principles which underpin the success of the business.
2016 proved to be as fine a year as ever and a fitting tribute to the late Bill Laird, who sadly passed away in January 2016. Bill was a mainstay of the Masters for nearly ten years, and was widely recognised not just for his charismatic and humorous style but his wealth of Retailing know-how and his ability to help everyone learn.


Mike Parkes
Programme Director
Oxford Summer School Masters

OSS Masters 2017 - Said Business School, Oxford; 27th February to 2nd March 2017

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