Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Glynn Davis: ecommerce players dominate Retail’s ‘movers and shakers’ list

by Glynn Davis, founder, Retail Insider

Let’s consider the question of where the greatest innovation and disruption is currently taking place within the retail sector? I reckon it would be fair to say that digital is right up there in the thick of the action and judging by the recently published Disruptors & Innovators in Retail Top 30 report this suggestion would be absolutely bang-on.

The report was produced by Retail Insider in partnership with the Retail Technology Show, which recently held its annual event, with the objective of identifying and celebrating the industry’s pace-setters who are redefining the retail landscape. 

An advisory panel of experienced retailers including David Walmsley, chief digital & technology officer at Pandora; Jeremy Pee, chief digital and technology officer at Marks & Spencer; Aron Gelbard, co-founder & CEO of Bloom & Wild; and Paul Hornby, digital customer experience director at The Very Group helped pull together the top 30 movers & shakers in innovation and disruption..

The final list includes a mix of individuals from across the entire retail eco-system – from large organisations to disruptive start-ups, new formats and innovative business models, along with circular economy initiatives. 

What’s incredible is the prevalence of ecommerce players within the publication. Whether that be marketplaces, online-only brands and direct-to-consumer propositions. From the 30 organisations represented only three are what we would recognise as traditional store-based retailers – Marks & Spencer, Frasers Group and Matalan – and even these are now bona fide multi-channel operators.

This is not to say that there is only limited innovation taking place in these established retailers, it’s just that the centre of gravity for younger people – who are invariably the drivers of change – has shifted. Today, they are much more likely to start their own organisations. These invariably have a digital-bias because that is arguably the route by which more can be achieved within a quicker timeframe and at a lower cost.

The top 10 ranked individuals in the report very much highlight this dynamic. Topping the list is James McMaster, CEO of Huel, who is followed by Ianina Lucca, chief growth officer of Depop, and then we have Pete Butler, Co-Founder and CEO of Dishpatch, the high-end meal delivery kit business. 

Just considering this top three encapsulates how innovation and disruption is online-focused. Huel was created initially as an online-only brand of powdered, healthy foods. It has since gone on to broaden out its product range and to also sell through high street retailers although it still has no plan for shops of its own. Likewise, Depop is a wholly-online proposition that operates as a peer-to-peer resale marketplace, while Dishpatch was created as an online platform through which chefs could sell high-end meal-kits during Covid-19 and such has been its success that it continues to grow in the post-pandemic environment.

The rest of the top 10 comprises an equally online-skewed grouping of individuals from retailers, brand owners and marketplaces for resale and rental. Clare Hornby, Founder & CEO, ME+EM; Laura Harricks, Chief Customer Officer, Ocado Retail; Charlotte Morley, Founder & CEO, The Little Loop; Sophie Trueman, MD for UK & Ireland, Too Good to Go; Charlotte Langley, Chief Customer Officer, Bloom & Wild; John Douglas, CTO, Gymshark; and Krista Nordlund, Chief Digital Product Officer, Marks & Spencer.

What is also noticeable about this inaugural Disruptors & Innovators Top 30 list is the impressive number of women represented. The top 10 comprises an incredible 70% women and across the report as a whole they account for 50% of the individuals listed. This very much highlights how much impact they are having on the broad retail industry at the innovative and disruptive level. This certainly bodes well for the future because the people in the report are undoubtedly the rising stars in the sector who very much represent the future of the sector.

It will be interesting to see how the list evolves over this year and the resultant 2024 report. How prevalent will e-commerce and the digital channels remain when we come to determine the next generation of disruptors and innovators.