Co-operators recognised in UK Retail 100 list

Ethics and reputation rise up retail’s agenda

Retail Week’s annual Retail 100 ranking names the industry’s most influential people. The top two remain unchanged from last year (Dave Lewis (CEO, Tesco) and Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO, Amazon)), with Rishi Sunak (chancellor of the exchequer) a new entry at #3.

This year sees grocery retailers dominate the top 30, as well as leaders who have prioritised purpose and company culture throughout the coronavirus crisis. Co-op Group chief executive Steve Murrells was named #6 on the list, up from #18.

“While the successes of Co-op’s food business are well documented, Steve Murrells has played a critical role in steering the group and been a spokesperson for the wider industry this past year,” said the rankings report. 

“The Group’s most recent annual results showed underlying pre-tax profit jumped 50% to £50m and total revenues were up 7% to £10.9bn [and his] decision to shift the food supply base to more UK producers has also paid off, putting it in a better position to withstand the wave of customer stockpiling in the early weeks of the lockdown.”

The report highlighted the Members’ Coronavirus Fund, adding that “Murrells has also stuck his head above the parapet to lobby for changes that would benefit retail”.

Jo Whitfield

The Group’s Food chief executive, Jo Whitfield, also rose on the list, from #37 to #33, acknowledging that the organisation’s food business continues to be “the pillar on which the wider business can rely for growth”.

“Before the coronavirus crisis struck, Whitfield’s convenience store empire had been growing steadily and she had led the retailer into burgeoning food trends, including launching the Co-op’s own-brand Gro vegan range in January,” said the report.

“During the pandemic, the Co-op has been focused on increasing its online delivery capacity, spearheading tie-ups with delivery app Deliveroo, as well as experimenting with its own Co-op.com delivery services.”

Ms Whitfield was awarded the prestigious Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award in 2019 in recognition of her contribution.

Dame Sharon White

Also named on the list were Dame Sharon White (#17, new entry), chair of the John Lewis and Julian Richer (#55, down from #39), who founded Richer Sounds.

Dame Sharon White became chair of the employee-owned mutual John Lewis & Partners in February 2020, just as the pandemic was about to hit Britain.

Before he left, her predecessor Sir Charlie Mayfield unveiled radical restructuring plans at the department store and Waitrose grocery group that resulted in the departures of some of its most experienced leaders. But “White has played a deft hand, focusing primarily on listening to partners and getting under the bonnet of the retailer but making clear that change is to come,” said the report.

Julian Richer

Julian Richer won Outstanding Contribution to Retail at the 2019 Retail Week Awards, and has continued to push the importance of ethical business this year.

He recently handed control of his business to its employees, through a workers’ ownership trust, and has stepped back from the day-to-day running of the business. He has thrown his weight behind Zero Hours Justice, a campaign and advice service with the aim of “ending the enforced imposition of controversial zero hours contracts”. 

“It is the latest initiative from a retail leader who has consistently argued that treating people well sits at the heart of business success, and whose influence has been brought to bear on other retailers, including Marks & Spencer where he is an advisor,” reads the report. 

“As ethics and reputation rise up retail’s agenda, Richer has blazed a trail for others to follow.”

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