Last week the OSS Masters brought together some of retail’s most talented Senior Managers, Directors and Business Owners for 4-days of strategic leadership development. This collaborative and inspirational forum develops delegates’ ability to analyse market trends and establish what works, what doesn’t and how they can innovate in a volatile and competitive market. Equally, during the week we invited world renowned industry leaders and key note speakers to share their thoughts on the retail landscape and how businesses can position themselves for success.

Our top takeaways from the week were:


Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC shared her view of the retail landscape and outlined the 3 reasons to believe in the future of retail:


    • Retail forms 5% of the UK economy – contributing £98.4BN GVA.
    • Estimated that retail spending will reach £381BN by 2024.
    • Retail continues to push the boundaries as industry productivity grew 5.1% in 2018 compared to 0.5% in the UK as a whole.
    • In the same year retail invested £1.1BN in new technology

    • Nation’s largest employer – 3.1M jobs in the UK
    • 14% of all apprenticeships are in retail
    • 3% pay growth in 2017
    • 1% median gender pay gap vs 17.9% UK average

    • Retail continues to be at the heart of communities
    • Reduced Carbon Emissions by 36%
    • £2.25M was raised for good causes from the plastic bag levy in Scotland and Wales
    • Contributed to 2.9M tonnes reduction in food & packaging waste saving 8.1M tonnes of Carbon Emissions



Helen then remained at the programme to take part in an inspirational panel discussion on the future retail landscape. She was joined by a further 3 of the Top 50 Global Retail Influencers:

  • Andrew Busby - Founder & CEO at Retail Reflections - "Don't try to compete with Amazon. Do what they can't. But above all, be relevant. A big trend will be more and more personalisation. Use all data responsibly and ethically."
  • Natalie Berg - Retail Analyst, Author & Founder at NBK Retail - "The future is fewer but more impactful stores. Future stores need to keep up with Amazon but also they need to differentiate from the transactional nature of buying online."
  • Chris Brook-Carter -  Managing Director, Retail Week and World Retail Congress who chaired the session - "Be very open minded about what your definition of retailing is. If it's just about shifting products then you need to think more about the services you provide, how you transact and how you are positioned in your communities and the environments you work in."


Day 2 saw the delegates split into groups to meet subject matter experts to explore the challenges of the business environment, here's what they uncovered:

  • Business Innovation:

    • Listen to the outside world – communicate better with customers
    • Technology solutions are already out there
    • Collating different sources of data enables retail business to better understand external influences
    • Innovation must flow throughout the company culture – it cannot be led by just 1 team. Businesses should engage and empower all staff to share their ideas
  • Customer Proposition:

    • Conscious consumption is a huge trend
    • Evolving brand engagement - consumers expecting to interact with the brand
    • Retailers need to adapt traditional retail methods
  • External Influences:

    • To build influence and loyalty with their customer retailers should:
      • Listen to the customer
      • Engage with the customer
      • Being authentic and honest
  • New Entrants and International Markets

    • A single solution will not suit all retailers
    • Strong brand proposition is key
    • No guarantees – be adaptable
    • Retailers must utilise a customer centric mindset

We are grateful to Polly Barnfield OBE, Kal Patel, Lynne Jones, Tom Ironside, Karinna Nobbs, Dr Alex Connock, Sarah Hitchcock, Alan Treadgold, Jonathan Reynolds and Christophe Cauvy for sharing their insights and expertise with our delegates.

Delegates then heard from Steve Finlan, CEO of the Wine Society who shared his insights from over 30 years working in retail. He discussed where we've been, where we are, where we're going and what we should be doing as retailers in order to thrive.


The OSS Masters is about interaction, discussion and debate. We therefore held sessions on retail's hot topics including:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility - a session led by Mike Barry the former Director of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer
  • Leading in an Uncertain World - a discussion led by Derek Linden a cultural change and people development expert 
  • Demystifying Data Analytics, AI and Robotics - a session by Dr Jonathan Reynolds one of the leading academic experts in the study of the international retail sector
  • Landing Your Proposition - by Mike Parkes, OSS Masters Programme Director and leadership development expert



We were delighted to welcome Vice President of eBay UK – Rob Hattrell to share his insights into innovation at eBay. He challenged the delegates thinking during an engaging keynote and discussed how eBay uses data to influence action, how delegates should lead into uncertainty and how innovation should be in the DNA of every business.

“Change and innovation should be what you do...all of the time...not just as another thing”



The culmination of the 4 days was for delegates to present an Innovative Strategic Proposition to our Executive Board - Fiona Lambert and Jon France. The challenge was to take everything that they’d learnt and create an innovative strategic proposition for a chosen retailer. The Executive Board were impressed by the delegates creativity, research and planning. The entries were:

  • The launch of a digital platform for ordering Greggs on the go
  • Custom 3D printing chocolate gifts for retailer Hotel Chocolat
  • A network of ‘GYMTANK Shark Schools’ for apparel and accessories brand GYMSHARK
  • Introducing healthy options bars within Holland & Barrett stores

Congratulations to the team behind the ‘GYMTANK Shark Schools’ who impressed the judges and were voted the winning proposition.


If you’d like to book your place at OSS Masters 2021 please contact Terry Lees on 07595 928 721 or