CEO Baldock quits Shop Direct as digital drive transforms firm

Shop Direct’s CEO Alex Baldock will leave the online retailer next year, the company said Friday. The executive, who has run Britain’s second-largest pureplay e-tailer since 2012, said it’s time for him to “move on to the next challenge.”


Shop Direct/Mubaloo


Baldock has not said whether that challenge is a confirmed new role or not. But his departure is clearly amicable with both Baldock and the company rushing to praise each other, which is no surprise given that he has presided over five consecutive years of higher sales and earnings.

The executive has led the company at a critical time when it has moved from its catalogue roots into a web-only retailer that is among the most forward-looking in the UK.

It operates the Very and Littlewoods brands as well as the more upscale Very Exclusive e-store and only this week reported revenues up 14.6% and pre-tax profit up over 10% to £160.4 million for its 2016/17 financial year.

Aidan Barclay, chairman of of the privately-held company, described him as “a class act” who had been “pivotal” in the business’s digital transformation. “He’s brought strategic clarity, relentless execution, and inspired his people to get behind him at every step.”

He also said that Baldock and his team would ensure a smooth transition leading up to his departure next summer.
One thing that will happen during this period is the implementation of the AI-powered chatbot within the MyVery app. The sophisticated piece of tech is able to answer a large number of the questions  customers ask and recognises thousands of written phrases. It’s a precursor to the company’s aim of making its digital assistant into a virtual personal shopper that can be of value to each customer.

It’s just one of a number of digital initiatives that also recently included a deal with Bauer for shoppable video content to back its V by Very label.

Investment in such technology has made Shop Direct one of the most tech-focused e-tailers out there and the company has recently opened a new tech hub in London.

So why is Baldock moving on from all this? Apart from praising his team and the company, plus talking about new challenges, there was no specific hint as to the reasons behind his departure. Earlier this year, the company cancelled its attempt to sell the business for several billion pounds and, as CEO, Baldock could have expected to have gained from such a sale.

ShopDirect has seen several senior departures this year, including Very Exclusive chief Sarah Curran and long-term e-commerce chief Jonathan Wall.

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