Breakfast with Sainsbury’s chairman David Tyler

A good start to the week at a breakfast event arranged by Wizo with Sainsbury’s chairman David Tyler.

He spoke about his career in retail and how Sainsbury’s is moving forward as well as his thoughts on online, international and service.

Tyler is far more low profile than CEO Justin King which allows him to do a fair few mystery shopper trips. On a recent trip he was dismayed at being called “darling” by the lady at the check out whilst the man in front of him was called “gorgeous”. The lady explained – not knowing of course this was her chairman – that this was because the other man had been shopping alone. I find the service at my local Sainsbury’s in Muswell Hill excellent and it is a tricky store to manage as it gets very busy and crowded.

Tyler said that his first sniff of retail came when he ran the school tuck shop when supplier issues had to be met- this was sure to serve him well at Sainsbury’s who have thankfully addressed supply issues that it had a few years ago.

He said that online was becoming increasingly important growing 20% each week  and said in the short-term it was very much Sainsbury’s plan to focus on the UK rather than international markets. With the struggles that Tesco has had internationally who can blame him.

He also gave his thoughts on the debate that dominated this weekend’s papers about the lack of female board members in FTSE 350 companies. He agrees that there should be more women in the board room – especially in retail when so many purchasing decisions are made by women. However he disagrees with imposing a quota on companies as this may mean filling positions for the sake of it and not based on the right talent for the posts.

At Sainsbury’s 3 of its 12 board members are women, he is also on the Burberry board where women dominate the board. I do agree with him that quotas are the wrong way to go on this issue but that businesses should be doing more to push women up the chain whether that is more flexible working to allow for a family life or more encouragement is really company dependant.

Very sad news this morning that Nigel Whittaker has passed away. The former Kingfisher director was a lovely man and alover of the retail trade who fought a long and hard illness. My thoughts are with his family.


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