Superdry chairman urges boardrooms to hire young people amid online shift

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Superdry Julian Dunkerton
// New Superdry chairman Peter Williams wants boardrooms to consider the younger generation as retail continues to shift to online
// Williams spoke on the importance of social media at the World Retail Congress
// Williams’ most recent role was chairman of Boohoo

Superdry’s new chairman Peter Williams has suggested that boardrooms in the retail sector need to consider appointing younger members amid a continuing shift towards online.

Speaking at a forum during the World Retail Congress in Amsterdam yesterday, Williams also discussed how retailers can manage and motivate workers from different generations and emphasised the importance of social media, because “retail is a 24 hour business”.

“If you haven’t got somebody on the board who gets digital, you’re in for trouble,” he said.

“It’s not necessarily the end of the high street, but there is certainly a shift going on online.”

He continued: “Social media is not properly understood by people my age.

“You need younger people in the boardroom because if you don’t give customers what they want, they will look elsewhere.”

He added: “People’s mindsets have changed and technology has enabled those working arrangements to change because not everybody has to be in the office the whole time now.”

The forum marked Williams’ first public appearance since he was appointed Superdry chairman in April.

Speaking on how boardrooms have changed since his career began, he said: “I think it’s gradually changing for the better.

“There’s a lot of pressure today, and quite rightly so, in terms of diversity, sex and background, and that is fantastic because you want the customer in the room.”

For 13 years up to 2004, Williams was on the board of Selfridges, initially as chief financial officer and then as chief executive.

His most recent role was the chairman of online fashion group Boohoo, which he joined in 2014 and left for Superdry last month.

Speaking on a chairperson’s relationship with the chief executive, Williams said “their relationship is crucial to the business”.

“They need to be like-minded and learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

He added: “For any business to thrive, you need to pick a chairperson with a youthful attitude – we’re in the entertainment business, for Christ’s sake.”

His appointment as Superdry chairman came after the entire board resigned when founder Julian Dunkerton returned as interim chief executive.

Last month, Dunkerton won the proxy votes cast ahead of a shareholder meeting with a narrow majority – 50.75 per cent voted in favour of his return to the Superdry board.

Meanwhile, Williams gained 50.74 per cent of proxy votes in his favour.

The results prompted former chairman Peter Bamford, chief executive Euan Sutherland, chief financial officer Ed Barker, and chairman of the remuneration committee Penny Hughes to resign from Superdry with immediate effect.

Non-executive directors Dennis Millard, Minnow Powell, Sarah Wood and John Smith handed in their three months’ notice and are due to leave July 1.

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