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Bill has served as CEO at Wickes, Focus and Iceland. He has now produced The Grimsey Review, looking at what can be done to reinvigorate the high street. He argues that town centres should be reinvented as community hubs, with housing and public services at the centre. Bill talks about changing customer habits and the growth of ‘mall culture.’ These out-of-town arenas will become the showrooms of the future, in which we choose what to order online.
Bill Grimsey served as CEO at Wickes, Iceland and Focus, turning around and stabilising the former two in preparation for their sale. He’s since become a consultant and author, looking at what has happened in Britain’s high street and what’s next for retailers.
Bill’s first senior management role was as Tesco Customer Services Director. Then, after posts in Hong Kong and South Africa, he was invited to return to the UK to restructure the heavily indebted Wickes chain. His next task was to replace Stuart Rose and steady the ship at Iceland, before taking on another set of challenges in the DIY market just as the financial crash loomed.
Bill believes that high street retail is essentially doomed to fail in the face of changing customer behaviour, the growth of online and ‘US mall culture’ with large retail arenas like Westfield. Its only hope is to be reinvented as a community hub, with a handful of independent retailers taking advantage of limited footfall alongside housing and services for local people. In the meantime, many of the large retail parks are destined to turn into tumbleweed.
With challenging views on retail culture, the future of the customer experience and the economy they underpin, Bill offers a counter to those that seek to revive high street shopping. He explores the lessons for businesses highlighting how retailers like Woolworth’s and HMV dying is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
As well as a look at the future of the high street, Bill looks more broadly at retail as it shifts into a multichannel world and seeks to compete with global online businesses. He also recounts his lessons from the boardroom on leading in challenging circumstances and turning around organisations. He applies his experience to customer services culture and gives his thoughts on management and growth strategy.
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Bill has the common touch you might expect from one of the few bosses to go from storeroom to boardroom. When his 4-year old granddaughter pleaded for an iPad, he began to imagine how she’ll be served by retailers of the future. He now gives an unsentimental insider’s view of the commercial realities they face - not forgetting the social side of the high street that affects us all. JLA Agent Simon King
JLA Speakers Breakfast - April 2013