In a brand new initiative designed to boost awareness of the opportunities offered by a career in retail, Specsavers and everywoman hosted a glamorous reception in Covent Garden last night where the inaugural Retail Ambassadors were announced.
During the celebratory evening, some 200 senior women from the retail industry feted the professional success of the chosen Ambassadors and discussed ways in which the industry needs to adapt to ensure it attracts the cream of the professional talent pool.
High profile attendees included founder of Specsavers, Dame Mary Perkins; fashion designer Amanda Wakeley OBE; the newest addition to Dragon’s Den, Kelly Hoppen MBE as well as leaders from programme partners Asda, Barclays, Pentland Group and Santander – organisations recognised for being diversity champions and supporters of women in business. They were joined by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, who spoke about the importance of role models who inspire young people across all walks of life.
Companies displaying best practice were identified for recognition by an Advisory board comprising the key industry trade bodies including bira (British Independent Retailers Association); Copra (Cosmetic & Perfumery Retailers Association); ERA (Entertainment Retailers Association); Fashion Retail Academy; FSB (Federation of Small Businesses); IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) and Women in Retail. The Ambassadors were selected by a panel of judges who were impressed by their resilience, hard-work, and contribution to the industry, whether as an entrepreneur, a corporate high-flier or a future star.
This initiative, spearheaded by everywoman, the largest UK organisation for women in business, alongside Specsavers, an early advocate of female-friendly working practices, aims to shine a spotlight on the women who are capitalising on the opportunities retail offers and achieving career success. These women, of all ages, disciplines and positions demonstrate that retail is a sector full of diverse roles where anyone with drive and ambition can excel.
Representing the pinnacle of retail success, a special award for Retail Ambassador of the Year was presented by Dame Mary Perkins to Judith Batchelar, Director of Brand at Sainsbury’s for her pioneering approach to sustainability in one of the UK’s largest supermarkets. Her passion for sustainability goes far beyond her work for Sainsbury’s – she has worked with Farm Africa to encourage sustainable food production amongst Kenyan women and is a trustee of the Marine Stewardship Council. The judges were wowed by Judith’s passion and vision, which have led to Sainsbury’s becoming the UK’s largest retailer of Fairtrade products, turning over £300 million this year.
The 2013 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors are:
- Analisa Ariss, from Newcastle upon Tyne, Director of Maddi Alexander, a fragrance brand with a conscience, stocked in luxury retailers including Harrods and Fortnum & Mason.
- Melanie Armstrong, from London, who has climbed the ladder from sales assistant to her current role as Head of Music & Merchandise at HMV Retail Ltd.
- Jill Bradley, Manager / Buyer, feelunique.com, from Jersey, responsible for a sales team of 25 at the Channel Islands’ leading beauty retailer.
- Melissa Burton, from Heysham, Lancashire, Managing Director of Goody Good Stuff, allergy and gluten-free sweets that can be enjoyed by everyone.
- Ellie Doohan, Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer – EMEA and Canada, Walmart International, from London, a leader of over 100 and a champion of supporting women in the workplace.
- Martha Ferguson, from London, Owner / Director of Papylon, a contemporary kitchenware store, set up when she was just 26.
- Clare Kirkby, Store Manager, Hobbs, from Glasgow, credited with leading the branch of the fashion retail store to be one of the top five in the country.
- Melissa Knight, Digital Marketing Manager, Post Office Ltd, from London, responsible for developing a variety of creative campaigns and leading a team of eight.
- Pauline Lauder, Clothing and Footwear Trading Director, Shop Direct Group, from Liverpool, who leads a team of 180 and is an advocate of flexible working to support women.
- Deryane Tadd, Director of fashion boutique The Dressing Room in St Albans, who climbed up the retail career ladder before successfully going it alone.
- Elaine Wrigley, Head of Retail, New Look Retailers, from Bolton, responsible for a team of regional managers, 182 stores and a sales volume of £450m.
- Judith Batchelar, Director of Brand at Sainsbury’s, from London, Retail Ambassador of the Year.
Maxine Benson MBE, co-founder of everywoman comments:
“It is a business imperative to unlock the talents of all women in the workplace. Our twelve 2013 Retail Ambassadors are all Role Models who are playing a vital part in unlocking the potential of other women in their orbit: friends, colleagues, the young girl on work experience, the customer considering a return to work after a career break. When they experience the passion our Ambassadors have for their work, see the success they are achieving, they will know just how rewarding a career in retail can be. That’s why the role these 12 women hold as Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors is so important.”
Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers continues:
“In 2008 I became patron of everywoman, which has been championing women in business since 1999, providing them with the resources, connections and skills they need to succeed. everywoman shares my belief that what women need is inspiration – an opportunity to see that they can do it too. This year sees the launch of the Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassador Programme. The Programme will shine a spotlight on the industry’s top female talent, showcasing role models from across the sector. These Retail Ambassadors will help increase awareness of the myriad of opportunities for women and hopefully drive more women to consider a career in retail.”
The key partners of the Specsavers everywoman in Retail Programme are organisations recognised as Diversity Champions: Asda, Barclays, Pentland Group, Santander. Supported by Cushman & Wakefield.