There’s no doubting that John Colley’s decision to join Hobbycraft from Majestic makes sense on a number of levels. Colley is a fan of the retailer, which he visits regularly with his two young sons. The company HQ in Bournemouth is closer to his family home, while his background with project-based retailers such as B&Q and Praxis aligns well with Hobbycraft’s offer.
Nevertheless, Colley’s exit after just 18 months leading Majestic’s retail arm will have come as a surprise to many, not least I suspect his boss at Majestic, Rowan Gormley.
Majestic put a positive spin on Colley’s exit, noting the key part he has played in the first phase of the transformation of Majestic Retail by personalising the business and rebuilding its processes.
This is no doubt true, yet it still feels like a case of ‘job not quite done’ for Colley, whose departure means responsibility for running the retail arm will transfer to Gormley.
Eighteen months is not a long time to serve in an MD role. Newly hired senior managers, of which there have been several during Colley’s tenure, will be disappointed to see him go, and one feels he will need to put down roots at Hobbycraft for a number of years to give future recruiters the confidence he is able to commit to a long-term process of business transformation.
Having said all this, it is clear to see why the Hobbycraft chief executive role was an opportunity Colley deemed too good to turn down. Last year’s financials were strong and Colley has rightly praised outgoing chief executive Catriona Marshall for doing a lot of the heavy lifting needed to build a multichannel infrastructure.
Colley’s task will be to use this solid base to unleash Hobbycraft’s potential, in particular by simplifying the customer journey across all channels, broadening the customer base and continuing the drive towards greater personalisation.
As with Mary Homer’s move from Topshop to The White Company last month, Colley will move to a retailer that in revenue terms is smaller than the one he is leaving, allowing for the fact that Majestic’s retail division is only one part of the overall Group.
It’s easy to think of career progression in linear terms – you move up the ladder via increasingly senior roles and when you hit the top you move onto a bigger company. Sometimes, however, it’s more about the size of the opportunity than the business itself, as Colley told Retail Week this week.
Colley now has the opportunity to put his mark on a business that on paper suits him to a tee. It will be interesting to chart his progress in the years ahead.