Yorkshire woman Noor Ali, was one of many leading women announced as 2014 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassador. The annual ceremony took place in central London attended by Dame Mary Perkins and several hundred leading business figures representing over 50 retail brands. Mrs Ali , was one of twelve female trailblazers working across a breadth of disciplines and companies – from online enterprises to high street giants – have been selected to be 2014’s Ambassadors and role models for the next generation of women pursuing a career in retail. At a time when in-store retail is thriving, the sector presents a wealth of opportunity.
Noor Ali became Morrisons’ first World Foods Manager in 2012, tasked with re-launching the ethnic food range to cater for a more diverse customer base. Making it her goal to thoroughly understand the requirements of the customers, she successfully partnered with 85 suppliers to grow the category from 500 lines to over 1,350. By introducing 850 new SKU (stock keeping units), three new cuisines (African, Far Eastern, Halal) and three new categories (food, bakery, halal meat) she is responsible increasing year-on-year sales by 146%.
Noor is described by peers as a ‘true inspiration’, balancing being a mum alongside a busy role growing a challenging new category. She is a passionate believer in the power of mentoring, and is involved in the Mosaic Network, HRH the Prince of Wales’ youth mentoring programme. She leads on the Women’s Advocacy Group, mentors young students through the Business Enterprise Challenge competition and was chosen for the Businesswomen of the Year award at the 2011 Asian Women of Achievement Awards. Her commitment and dedication have been recognised internally and externally, with Morrisons’ CEO Dalton Phillips citing her in his speech at the company’s annual conference.
With retailers’ optimism about the industry at its highest since May 2002, everywoman believes there has never been a better time for women wanting dynamic, exciting careers to enter retail. Data from Worldpay UK, the global multi-channel payment processing body that processes over 8.4 billion transactions every year, reveals that 74% of all sales made by UK shoppers took place in-store rather than online. In-store spending is on the up and consumer confidence high.
According to data the UK’s retail sector contributes £321bn to the economy (20% of GDP). With the industry employing 3 million people in the UK, there is great scope for ambitious women. But there is also a challenge – while 60%, 1.8 million, of those employees are female, less than 10% of the industry’s most powerful executives are women. With over 80% of consumer purchasing decisions made by women, retailers are failing to represent their customer base among their senior decision makers. In order to change this, women need to see more role models at a senior level. This is why key partners Santander, Asda, Worldpay UK and the British Retail Consortium – organisations all committed to championing greater gender diversity in business – have got behind this programme.
The 2014 Ambassadors were unveiled at a prestigious reception and ceremony at the Waldorf Hilton, attended by hundreds of leading luminaries from retail including Holly Tucker MBE, co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com; newly appointed CEO of Hobbs, Meg Lustman; Jacqui Gale, CEO, Crabree & Evelyn; Beth Butterwick, CEO of Bonmarché; and designer Jeff Banks. The ‘Woman of the Year’ award went to Lucy Denton, area manager of WM Morrison who started her career as a 16-year old check-out operator and is the company’s first female area manager, responsible for 20 stores and 4,500 staff and a turnover of £60m.
Maxine Benson MBE, Co-Founder of everywoman comments: “In the last quarter, Britain’s retailers saw the strongest sales in ten years; this is an industry offering great career opportunities. Collectively our twelve Ambassadors demonstrate the vast range of diverse talents the industry requires and the career opportunities available. By becoming Champions for the Retail profession, our Ambassadors will share their passion and drive for the industry, acting as role models who will encourage talented young women looking for a challenging and rewarding career to view retail as a viable and appealing option.
Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers, continues: “The 2014 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors are incredible businesswomen and an inspiration to future generations of women in retail. As a proud supporter and patron of everywoman, I am often asked what makes Specsavers successful. It’s quite simple really – always treat people how you would like to be treated. That applies to employees as well as customers. If you get this right then your business will grow. But never rest on your laurels! At Specsavers we have an ethos of never being satisfied, of having unrelenting drive and passion.”
Dave Hobday, Managing Director Worldpay UK, said: “Every day we work with thousands of women in retail, so we’re delighted to be sponsoring the Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors and proud to be helping them grow their business. The programme is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate this success and at the same time inspire the next generation of female leaders. An energetic, ever-changing UK High Street creates opportunities for all.”
Helen Dickinson, Director General, BRC adds: “Companies harnessing the power of diversity throughout their business, from the bottom to the top, do better. In a fast changing retail world having the best people to ensure we continue to innovate and offer products and experiences that consumers want and need is vital. So we must continue to do more to leverage all diversity including nurturing our female talent and encouraging women to aim high through programmes such as these”
The 2014 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors are:
- Noor Ali, World Foods Manager, Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc, from Leeds
- Heather Blackman, Managing Director, Commercial, Hotel Chocolat, from Royston
- Laura Chiddey, Upholstery Buyer, DFS Trading Ltd, from Doncaster
- Amanda Cox, Vice President – People Central, ASDA, from Leeds
- Maleka Dattu, Creator and Founder, MERUMAYA Integrative Effective Skincare, from London
- Lucy Denton, Area Manager, WM Morrison Supermarkets plc, from South Wales, also chosen as the 2014 Woman of the Year
- Harriet Hastings, Managing Director/founder, Biscuiteers, from London
- Charlotte Imrie, Boutique Manager, Sweaty Betty, from Nottingham
- Jo Lee, Buying Director of Beauty and Jewellery, QVC UK, from London
- Nicola Thody, Commercial Development Manager, Dixons Retail, from London
- Dominque Tillen, Managing Director, Brush-Baby, from Winchester
- Clare Wardle, Group General Counsel, Kingfisher plc, from London
The women were chosen by an esteemed panel of judges including: Helen Dickinson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium; Karen Hubbard, COO B&M Stores and Carrie Rubin, Director, Pentland Group.