Meet AllSaints' COO Peter Wood
Peter Wood CA speaks about his role as Chief Operating Officer with AllSaints Retail.
As chief operating officers go, Peter Wood is arguably the most snazzily dressed. Far from the dark corporate suit so typically associated with finance chiefs, Peter – COO of uber-trendy fashion brand AllSaints – is decked out in a slick black leather jacket, t-shirt and dark jeans.
Peter looks too comfortable in the ensemble to think it may be a marketing ruse for the global fashion house. The look also fits with his confession that being a COO is just a hobby and that his real job is being a rock star. Well, he used to play keyboards in a Glasgow band.
Founded in London on All Saints Day (1 November) in 1994, AllSaints today has more than 3,000 employees and operates from more than 200 stores across 22 countries. Originally founded as a menswear brand, the company quickly moved into women’s clothing.
As a brand we realise that we have to focus on staying relevant and building an emotional connection between the brand and its customers
Last year AllSaints reported earnings up 18% to £28.5m. The group operates in 22 countries and plans to expand further in the near future.
As Chief Operating Officer, Peter is now focused on strategy, and has responsibility for the day-to-day trading and the global retail side of the business rather than solely the finances. Besides the obvious boardroom skills needed as COO of a fast-moving fashion chain, Peter is immersing himself in the psychology of fashion and retail; the factors that build an emotional connection between customers and the cloths they buy, and keep.
“Everyone’s got a piece of clothing in their wardrobe that they have an emotional attachment to. As a brand we realise that we have to focus on staying relevant and building an emotional connection between the brand and its customers,” he says.
Opportunities clearly abound for the brand but there are some clear challenges ahead too. Peter is sanguine about them, however. Brexit is on the radar, but as a growing global brand Brexit is not a major distraction for the business, he says.
“We tend to focus on what we can control and not worry too much about the things we can’t. What we are talking about at the end of the day is change, and our philosophy is that we know we can’t predict what the world will look like in three years’ time – it’s difficult currently to predict what it’ll look like in three months’ time – but what we are trying to do is build an agile business model so that no matter what the world throws at us, we are able to adapt as quickly as possible.”
AllSaints manufactures products in Europe and has EU nationals as staff in the UK so Peter says he follows closely what’s happening, but in the same context as he might follow the political situation in South Korea, for example, where the brand also has a retail presence.
We focus on direct digital engagement with the consumer with the support of local influencers in the market
Despite being a “proud British brand”, AllSaints does not want to stamp the British way of doing things on its products in overseas expansion. Indeed Peter says the company is proud of its diverse mix of nationalities, and its approach when expanding overseas is to integrate the culture of that country rather than impose a British one.
“We want to be culturally integrated as a proposition. And that means our teams too. All of our teams around the world are led by locals rather than Brits. That’s very important to us. When we communicate we are very conscious that even through our marketing we are not using analogue glossy photo shoots in magazines featuring western models. We focus on direct digital engagement with the consumer with the support of local influencers in the market,” he says.
The average age of AllSaints staff is 27 and the offices are based in London’s trendy East End, just off Brick Lane – an area once famous for curries, now better known for hipsters and artisan coffee bars. Peter may be considered the height of fashion for CFOs, but among his co-workers he says he’s probably deemed the least fashionable.