Through 2017 the retail industry saw 50 changes to chief executives, compared to 41 in 2016. The figures for 2017 are the highest since 2012 when 56 retail chief executives quit their posts. Some of the retailers seeing a 2017 change in chief executive include House of Fraser, Topshop, New Look and Asda, and it’s clear that retailing is currently going through a major transition period. The role of retail CEO can be immensely demanding, not least because of constant changes to consumer behaviours and relentless demands for innovation. Some of the key skills required by retail chief executives are discussed below.

Retail CEO: key skill requirements

Innovations in technology are driving companies across the globe, and the retail sector is no different. There is an ever-increasing reliance on data to drive decision-making, so modern CEOs need to have the abilities to develop brands and understand all the ramifications of operating within the digital environment. E-commerce is taking off on a large scale for most of the major retailers, so expertise within this field is critical for most CEOs nowadays.

It’s important that any CEO is customer-led and focused, as opposed to being product-led. While it’s important for any CEO to understand the business model, it’s customers that drive sales and CEOs should be able to evidence expertise in innovating to meet customer demand.

Staying ‘authentic’ to the brand is also a key skill for any CEO. The transparency of our digital environment makes it far easier for team members and customers to follow up on comments and statements. So, it’s important for any CEO to maintain the brand’s vision and mission at all times.

Experience in finance or strategy consulting can be important for driving change within the retail sector. At the moment the retail sector is going through immense change, with the digital transformation and changes to ways in which consumers purchase products, plus increases to employee wages also affecting bottom line profits for most retailers. When the potential impacts of Brexit are factored in, many retailers are facing a need to raise prices or cut costs, which makes it essential to employ a CEO with a strong finance or strategy background.

Collaborative leadership skills are also important for successful CEOs, and the abilities to delegate and rely upon a diverse mix of key colleagues can be essential for success within the retail industry.

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