Magazine article Marketing

PROFILE: A Newer Look - Carl McPhail, Group Development Director, New Look

Magazine article Marketing

PROFILE: A Newer Look - Carl McPhail, Group Development Director, New Look

Article excerpt

Carl McPhail is struggling to make himself heard, but that's hardly his fault. The 39-year-old group development director of New Look is standing in the midst of utter pandemonium on curtain-up day at the company's flagship store.

McPhail's battle against the throng of Oxford Street shoppers doesn't displease him. Far from it. For the shop, which ushers in a new era for the country's third-biggest women's fashion retailer, is McPhail's baby.

And like any doting father newly acquainted with the joys of parenthood, he is making some bold claims about his newborn being the prettiest in town.

'I see the store as a wake-up call to the rest of British retailing,' he says. 'We want others to pick up the gauntlet that we have thrown down here.'

Decrying the 'mundane' and 'lazy' retailing efforts of other high-street denizens is obviously a favourite pastime. But looking around the New Look flagship store after our interview, it is easy to see why he is so taken with it. The result of a one-year project with design specialist Future Systems, the store epitomises a confidence that was conspicuously absent during New Look's self-confessed 'recovery phase' of a couple of years ago.

'I think we had forgotten the customer a little bit,' admits McPhail.

'But that position has been addressed. We have spent time and money reinvigorating the brand.'

It comes as no great surprise that McPhail is a recent alumnus of Selfridges, which itself has received effusive praise for the transformation of its own Oxford Street store over the past couple of years.

'Working with Vittorio (Radice, the former Selfridges chief executive) was a fabulous experience,' says McPhail. 'He eats from a different trough to other people. He makes you think about obvious things in different ways.'

The Radice approach has clearly rubbed off on McPhail - he talks, for example, about retailing as being 'all about innovation rather than formula' and about the fusion of previously distinct cultural spheres such as food, clothing and theatre - but one suspects that he is not short of ideas of his own.

For a man who has never had the word 'marketing' in his job titles at retailers including Dorothy Perkins, River Island and Bhs, McPhail speaks remarkably like someone whose employment revolves around brand development.

But does he see himself in this role? 'I think of myself as an old-fashioned retailer first, in the sense that I am close to everything we do that has an impact on the customer,' he says. 'So, yes, I see myself as a marketer as well.'

It is an intriguing answer in the context of New Look's decision to do away with its marketing director role earlier this year. …

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