Wendy Hallett founder of Hallett Retail, from East Finchley, London is the winner in the ‘Innovator of the Year’ category, sponsored by IBM
There was optimism about the recovery of the economy at the annual Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards, held last night at the Marriott hotel, Grosvenor Square, London. Industry pundits joined the UK’s largest network for women in business, everywoman, for the second year to celebrate the most inspiring and pioneering women working in the industry.
Whilst acknowledging that it was a difficult time to celebrate success, the industry’s top talent agreed it is imperative to continue to reward successful and innovative role models in order that other women will view retail as a viable and rewarding career option. Speaking at the awards ceremony were senior figures in the sector who have helped to inspire women in retail over the years, among them Jane Shepherdson, Chief Executive of the Whistles clothing group, Sharon O’Connor, Managing Director of Oasis Group and Julia Reynolds, Chief Executive of Figleaves.
Wendy Hallett, founder of Hallett Retail from East Finchley, London has been chosen as the winner in the Innovator of the Year category.
As a graduate trainee with the Arcadia Group, Wendy’s determination and aptitude for business saw her fast tracked through the ranks, becoming Area Manager at just 27. She became a working mother in her thirties, but after the birth of her second child, set out to establish a business model for smaller brands to launch themselves into the concession market within a boutique environment. With just £1,000 to buy a PC, Wendy set up Hallett Retail from home and within 12 months had her concept trialled in Debenhams. The concept was an instant success and was quickly rolled out into multiple stores. She continued to develop her idea, adapting it beyond department stores and in 2007 launched into New Look outlets building to 150 outlets. Today she employs 400 individuals in over 200 sites.
Wendy attributes her success to her ability to get a foot in the door and her strong sales skills. A good listener, she values the views of everyone in her business and draws on the pool of talent within her organisation. Wendy was diagnosed with cancer six year ago, a realisation that changed her life, giving her time to think and reflect on what was important. She now recognises the importance of enjoying everything she does and is determined to grow her company steadily without allowing it to take over her life.
Talking about her success, Wendy comments, “Passion for and a thorough knowledge of the retail sector definitely helped me launch my business, but my outstanding team must take much of the credit. One of my philosophies in life is that ‘no meeting is more important than your family’ and it is a principle I extend to my staff, many of whom work part-time to balance child-care commitments.”
Although the industry has been hit by the recession, retail is still the largest private sector employer in the UK. It comprises nearly three million employees with an annual turnover of £265 billion. Retail firms employ one in ten people in the UK, 60% of which are women, yet very few progress into senior roles. In fact, research reveals that there are less than 5% female CEOs within retail companies, and only 8% of purchasing decisions made within the sector are made by women.*
Chris Evans, Vice President, UK Retail Industry, IBM adds, “IBM is delighted to sponsor the everywoman ‘Innovation of the Year’ Award and would like to congratulate Wendy on her outstanding achievement. Wendy is a real inspiration and role model, helping to give confidence to other women innovators.”
Maxine Benson, Co-founder and Director of everywoman comments, “There is no denying that times have recently been tough for the retail sector, which is why companies need to ensure their most talented staff are encouraged into management roles. By celebrating the accomplishments of those such as Wendy, we hope that other women will have role models to look up to, and see retail as an area where they can flourish and maximise their skills.”
The panel of judges drawn from the retail world included some of the sector’s most prominent female success stories and influencers – Sue Brownson OBE, Managing Director of Blue Bell BMW Group; Anne Seaman, CEO Skillsmart Retail and Kim Morton, Chair of the Fashion Retail Academy. The awards were supported by the British Retail Consortium and The Retail Trust.
Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers says, “I know from personal experience how hard it is to succeed in a male-dominated industry. When I started out in optics in the ‘60s there were very few female opticians but today many of our 700 UK stores are owned and run by women. More than a quarter of our regional chairmen are female, something that would have been unheard of when we first started Specsavers 25 years ago. The winners here today demonstrate that it is possible to succeed in the retail sector, even in trying economic times.”