It‘s been almost three years since Claire Davenport was appointed the managing director of VoucherCodes.co.uk, and she‘s loving every minute of it.
With an illustrious career that saw her start off as an investment banker before eventually working for Skype as chief of staff, Davenport reflects on her time at the bargain-hunting online retailer, from the highs and lows and her thoughts on a post-Brexit climate in UK retail.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before VoucherCodes.co.uk.
I started my career as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, before taking leadership roles within fast-moving businesses, including Head of Strategy for RTL Group, Chief Commercial Officer at Bigpoint and Chief of Staff at Skype.
It‘s been such an exciting journey, with the internet creating so many new businesses and opportunities. It‘s hard to pick out one particular highlight, although I do love to see the team‘s success at VoucherCodes.
What got you into the retail sector in the first place?
Retail is an industry that touches every person in the UK. It is also one of the industries most disrupted by the move from pure bricks-and-mortar to multichannel, online and mobile, which means that a career in retail presents plenty of exciting opportunities and interesting challenges as brands adapt.
Describe your responsibilities as VoucherCodes.co.uk‘s Managing Director.
I‘m responsible for leading the business – articulating our strategy, making sure we have the right team to create compelling propositions for our partners and consumers, and ensuring that everyone is motivated and collaborating well together.
How has your previous experience aided your current job?
I have been lucky to have worked in industries during the time when they were going through their biggest disruptions; from TV when YouTube was taking off, to telecoms when Skype was becoming a true mass market proposition, and in online games when mobile gaming was on the rise.
With this experience, I‘d like to think that I can bring an understanding of how the established players in industry need to react to disruption, and in retail, how a proposition like VoucherCodes.co.uk can help industry leaders grow, share, test and learn.
I have had the experience of leading teams in fast-moving industries for several years, in different circumstances – that allows me to bring best practice gained from other start-ups as well as the larger companies operating under different types of management teams, to create a culture where we can innovate and execute.
Can you explain the concept behind VoucherCodes.co.uk?
With more than 50,000 vouchers for over 5000 brands and retailers, we are the number one destination for British shoppers looking for savings when making buying decisions, both online and in store. In 2015 we facilitated more than £555 million worth of retail sales.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Firstly, prioritising the product roadmap. We have a lot of ideas we‘d like to take to market and we can‘t possibly do all of them so we have to choose the ones we think will have most impact.
Secondly, making sure I never have an “off” day. As the managing director, it‘s important that I am always on, making sure people have what they need, that decisions are made, blockers get unblocked, that people feel motivated.
If I have a lower energy day, I notice the effect it has on the people around me so I try to look after myself, get enough sleep, decompress with my family and make sure I am able to give my best and be available to people when I am at work.
The most rewarding?
For me, the most rewarding part is the people. The energy in the office is always high, the teams are extremely collaborative, great at execution and take real pride in what they do.
It‘s a real pleasure to work with everyone and I feel proud of the culture the team has created.
Can you talk about any upcoming projects that you‘re working on at the moment?
We are very much focusing on becoming the go-to destination for shoppers in the UK whenever they want to save money on a purchase. This means extending out from online vouchers to in-store vouchers, but also other types of saving and on a much broader range of purchases – from your next broadband contract to your daily coffee.
We are continuously working to make sure we lead the market in making content more relevant and easy to find, whether that is enhancing search, introducing more personalised options or leading in local relevancy.
What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?
Anyone embarking on a career in retail should be willing to adapt continuously. Retail is being profoundly transformed by digital, and the way people shop is guaranteed to be different in five years‘ time.
Retail is also unique in that it combines both local and global influences – most supply chains are global while many retail brands remain local. People should stay close to trends, invest in digital knowledge and embrace a test and learn approach.
My advice would be to work for a company that is forward thinking, has a reputation for looking after its employees and where learning, development and career progression are all encouraged.
What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?
The rise of large-scale international marketplaces is a big risk for the rest of the retail sector, with their pricing, volume, delivery speed and scale.
In addition, rising property rates are a threat, as bricks-and-mortar stores struggle to remain profitable. The retail sector must fight to re-invent the high street and experiential shopping.
In terms of the post-Brexit climate, although we‘ve seen that the weaker pound is pushing prices up in certain areas already, research suggests that 70 per cent of retailers feel they are well prepared to deal with any Brexit implications, so the mood in the industry is broadly positive.