5 Minutes With Elaine Wrigley, Retail Director, Outdoor and Cycle Concepts

With over 40 years of operation in the country, it's arguable that Cotswold Outdoor is a mainstay in the UK's leisure retail sector. Recently the outdoor clothing and equipment retailer opened its 78th store, so the Retail Gazette caught up with the retail director of its parent company, Outdoor and Cycle Concepts, for this week's '5 Minutes With' profile.

Elaine Wrigley

Cotswold recently opened its 78th store. Congratulations!

We are all extremely excited about our new Bagshot Cotswold Outdoor and Runners Need Store. It is on an exciting development, centred in a great catchment area for our customers.

How are these stores different to other Cotswold stores?

This is our newest store concept, where we have a dual fascia offer, enhanced store fit and in store kiosks where our customers can access our extended ranges and other fascia.

Tell us a bit about your role as Retail Director for Outdoor and Cycle Concepts.

As Retail Director, I have responsibility for all of our stores, and store teams, customer services, visual merchandising and logistics across our fours fascia: Cotswold Outdoor, Runners Need, Snow and Rock and Cycle Surgery.

It‘s an interesting portfolio with a huge amount of potential.

There seems to be a surge in British “staycationers” this year due to the fall in the sterling. In what ways has this impacted Outdoor & Cycle?

Staycationers have always been hugely important customers for us, particularly in our Cotswold Outdoor fascia, and there is no doubt that more people are opting to stay in the UK for holidays.

Alongside the obvious areas like camping, other outdoor pursuits such as mountain biking, trail running and climbing are buoyant.

How is Outdoor & Cycle addressing some of the challenges facing the UK high street as a whole?

We face the same challenges as all other UK high street retailers: challenging customer traffic, rising property costs and on-line impacts.

We are fortunate to have a variety of fascia which peak at differing times of the year, a strong online presence and a varied property base, including destination, retail park, shopping malls and high street.

Equally, investing in new stores and refurbishing our existing estate is all making a difference.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Outdoor & Cycles.

I have been in retail for 32 years now, working across food, fashion, DIY and now outdoor.

Career highlights have certainly been opening Marks & Spencer in Greece, working in big box retail with Big W in Australia, and a very exciting period of change at New Look some years ago.

It would be fair to say that being able to work in an outdoor business, which allows me to work with products that I enjoy using in my spare time, is fantastic.

What got you into the retail sector in the first place?

I worked for M&S, during my A-levels, and post my time in the army, retail was a very natural choice.

I love the pace and variety that a career in retail has afforded me, along with many differing experiences over the years.

It‘s also fair to say that I‘ve been lucky to work with, and learn from, some talented people over the years and also made many friends.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

I‘ve worked across pretty much every retail sector, and also owned my own retail outlet, which has given me a wealth of operational experience.

I‘ve also brought with me the skills to inspire and lead teams, create an inclusive, supportive and dynamic team culture, drive performance and results and help people to be the best that they can be.

The key thing is to leading by example, listen well and keep learning.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I lead a number of varied functions, within the business, and I need to give them all equal focus.

I have to be very managed around time and ensure that priorities are clear and that all of my team work well with each other but also the wider business.

What is the most rewarding?

Seeing people grow and develop and adapt to change quickly. We are an extremely dynamic business and I feel very proud of what the team have delivered since I started.

Can you talk about any other projects that you‘re working on at the moment?

We have an exciting new store program underway, and are also looking forward to opening some new multi-fascia stores this year.

Our most exciting project this year, though, will be the opening of our new Bluewater Snow and Rock and Runners Need Store in November. This store will definitely be cutting edge. I really can‘t wait for our customers to experience it.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

I‘d tell them hands down to do it. Careers in retail are never talked about overtly as an exciting career opportunity during people’s education years. Something which in my view, needs to change.

You need to be open to change, love interacting with people and particularly customers and enjoy learning and developing yourself. The rewards are tremendous though if you are prepared to work hard.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

There is no doubt that Brexit is bringing a new current reality and who knows what it will bring in the future? The retail sector has always faced challenges.

The successful businesses, however, are agile and future-facing, but most importantly listen to their customers and deliver not only their current needs but predict their future ones. W

e are working hard at O&CC and I have no doubt that the future will be successful for us and our teams.

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