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25 Years in the saddle… and I’ve got the scars to prove it!

posted: 25 June, 2013

I recently celebrated a “significant” anniversary… 25 years with RMC.

I can’t quite believe that quarter of a century has passed in what seems like the blink of an eye… I thought that this would be an appropriate moment to reflect on some the milestones (and millstones!) of 25 years in the saddle.

When I left my last retail day-job in Department Store retailing back in 1988, the world seemed a very different place than today. Mrs Thatcher was in power, George Bush had just been elected US President, Digital cellular phones had just been invented, and the new kids on the block were, well, New Kids on the…

Moving swiftly along, there is an old retail saying that “if you don’t like change, then you are in the wrong business” … and it is indeed quite startling to consider how much Retailing has changed in the last two and a half decades, and yet how something things have hardly changed at all.

The UK High Streets back in 1988 were completely dominated by a very small number of multi-brand conglomerates including British Shoe corporation, Sears, Storehouse, and the then Burton Group nestled alongside the Chain Store giants C&A, British Home Stores, and of course, Marks & Spencer, then at the very zenith of its powers as the undisputed the biggest beast in the jungle. It was completely unthinkable back then that so many of those venerable brands would not only shrink but in many cases disappear completely from the UK High Street, and those which have survived still struggle to re-capture anything like the reverence or relevance they once exuded.

Supermarkets, on the other hand have really not changed very much at all from the simple, basic formula of stack it high and sell it cheap, however, the inexorable creeping growth of the Big 3 supermarkets was a stealthy and almost insidious assault on the UK consumer psyche, and these stores offered ever more products and services to ever more customers, 24-7 at convenient locations on customer doorsteps. There was to be no putting this particular genie back in the bottle.

There was barely Multi-Channel TV back in 1988 never mind Multi-channel retailing!

I think that the biggest eye-opener for me during the last few decades was undertaking my first “international” recruitment project, working with the brand new Euro Disney operation back in 1992. It was exciting to be exposed to the near obsessive customer focus of Disney’s US executive team, and then trying to square this with the skeptical French was a learning curve I will never forget! This gave us our first taste of working beyond the UK, and it really inspired us to go explore the rest of the planet.

Those innocent pre-Internet/social media days meant that everyone was less connected, and Head Hunting was still very much a black art and the domain of mysterious cologne-scented pin-striped types in Mayfair! It was a real challenge back in the day to gather the kind of market/company intelligence which is so freely available today at the click of a mouse on Google… but it really meant that you had to patiently build your knowledge and contacts from the ground-up in a patient and painstaking manner, and you really had to earn the respect and trust of clients and candidates the hard way!

As Management Guru Peter Drucker once commented, “The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.”

No matter what technological leaps forward or new retail innovation might emerge, Retail is still all about people. One of the great pleasures of working in the Recruitment sector for 25 years is that I have had the privilege of meeting a huge number of interesting and talented people, many of whom I am proud to now call friends as well as business contacts.

Here’s to the next 25 years!

James [Jim] Logie