Tell me about the WED2B story. How did it come about?
The company was originally founded in 2009 as The Wedding Dress Factory Outlet with the simple principles of great value, lots of choice and amazing customer service. We developed the business model after the first three stores were established, and in August 2014 secured investment to grow the business.
In 2015 we re-branded to WED2B for a fresher and more modern proposition, and after setting up a distribution centre and head office, we began our extensive store-opening programme. WED2B is the UK’s largest and fastest growing bridal retailer.
What’s in store for WED2B in 2018?
We will continue to open stores across the UK in 2018 and we will also have our first Irish store opening in Dublin this April. We have recently launched a WED2B Suppliers Directory on our website and will be expanding this to inspire our brides online and in-store with the multitude of amazing local wedding related businesses.
Wedding and haute couture businesses sometimes get overlooked when people talk about the retail industry as a whole. Why do you think that is?
Both these sectors are very fragmented so the retail data they generate can be difficult to reconcile. However, WED2B is breaking through this barrier as it becomes an established national retailer with its fast fashion approach to bridalwear.
How is WED2B addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry as a whole?
We are continuously looking to innovate and harness the benefits of technology in retail where we can. We will be testing click & collect in the near future and we have other digitally focused projects in the pipeline, all with the objective of enhancing the customer experience.
What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?
A major risk lies with indecision undermining business growth. Yes, we have numerous areas of agreement to be reached between the UK, EU and the rest of the world and it is natural that businesses will be cautious.
However, I think the cumulative effect of many businesses holding off making key growth decisions will generate an overall negative outlook of conducting business in the UK. I am hopeful that businesses will be bold and keep planning and executing for future growth and just adapt to any legislative changes generated by Brexit.
Describe your role and responsibilities as chief executive of WED2B.
We have a very clear high-growth business plan and my primary role is to make sure all departments are focused on achieving this. WED2B has grown considerably in a short space of time and building the company infrastructure in terms of people and systems requires considerable attention to detail, so I am very involved with all the projects that span the business.
Our investors are incredibly supportive and we have excellent lines of communication that allows them to keep updated and offer the business an experienced sounding board when needed.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before WED2B.
I have a degree in Automotive Engineering and the first nine years of my career was at Millbrook Proving Ground, which was a subsidiary of General Motors. Testing and developing prototype vehicles and engines was incredibly interesting as well as working with international clients such as GM, Holden, SAAB, Cadillac, Renault and many others.
A bridalwear wholesale company was my first taste of business ownership and after enduring the financial crash of 2008 and recognising the challenges of this business model, in 2009 The Wedding Dress Factory Outlet was created as a simple discount offering and was received extremely well by brides from the outset.
What got you into retail in the first place?
With my engineering and wholesale experience, everything had been business-to-business and it was frustrating at times to not be directly connected to the customer. When we became a vertically integrated retailer in 2009, it was a revelation to be able to take direct customer feedback on price, quality and design straight back into the design and manufacturing process and very quickly improve the offering on a continuous basis.
How has your previous experience aided your current job?
The precision and analytical nature of my engineering background has served me well as we have grown WED2B. I also managed a large operations department at Millbrook and this experience has certainly benefited with staff recruitment and organisation.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
As the store network grows we have more and more data and it can be challenging to bring all the different data streams together in a concise way to give actionable information. This challenge is even greater when dealing with more subjective feedback like design wishes from the thousands of brides we see each week.
And the most rewarding?
It is particularly rewarding to see staff progressing within the organisation. We have a fantastic Management Development Programme in place designed to give the skills to our store supervisors to become future stores managers. This is a great incentive for the individuals and allows the business to open new stores with WED2B experienced staff.
What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?
It would be very easy to favour recognisable high street brands and they do offer a perceived stability. However, I personally would favour a younger company, like WED2B, who are experiencing fast growth as this presents lots of new opportunities in a challenging but ultimately rewarding environment.