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Founders Diaries: Stuart McClure on his journey from bargain bin to global retail giant

Stuart McClure went from sales shopper to founder of a global discount retail disruptor, now his company is marrying with AI and reaching new heights
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Stuart McClure was a young father struggling to make ends meet when he realised there was a better way for consumers to access discounted retail products. Not long after, LovetheSales.com was born. The brand has since taken on a global reputation in discount retail, sits comfortably in the Startups 100 list, and has just been recognised as one of 15 UK based AI innovators to watch–we chat to McClure about his successful sartorial story.

Company: Love the Sales
Website: https://www.lovethesales.com/ 

Your legacy:

We have two aims. We want to help the world shop the sales more easily – helping consumers find the products and brands they want, for less. And secondly, by way of the previous point, we want to help retailers massively reduce overstock by ensuring all products are sold before they become out of season/unwanted.

Your business model:

Our site is a marketplace, so operates in such a fashion that retailers can advertise their discounted goods on our site and we take a commission for sales.

How do you measure success?

Growth. We are a startup entering a huge market, so growth in the market is paramount. There’s plenty of metrics we measure, but the big-ticket indicators of growth are GMV and user volume.

Do you plan to trade globally and enter new markets in the next 12 months?

Absolutely. We are already operating overseas in a small way, but over the next 12 months, we will be establishing a significant position in the US market.

How did you fund your business?

Initially, we bootstrapped in our own spare time. We wanted to build a fully functioning site and start to generate some revenue before seeking investment. Once we had a small proof of concept and had generated sales we secured investors and moved into the business full time.

In five years?

Our business will be a multinational website supporting thousands of small and large retailers to increase sell-through and reduce overstock. And from a consumer point of view, we will be one of the biggest shopping sites on the web.

As for the retail industry, change is rife, so it is hard to predict. That said, I think the high street will have moved to a more experience based set up with online supporting the volume of sales.

Your highest point…

Closing our first round of investment is definitely up there as a high point. It’s great to see validation from others buying into your idea and your business.

Your lowest point…

I haven’t really had any specific low points. There’s lots of stress, and lots of times where you are pulling your hair out for a solution (I can testify to this as I am now bald!), but I wouldn’t say anything stands out as being really bad.

What would you tell your younger self?

Strike a better balance between wellness and work. I am the kind of person that will forego breaks, healthy eating or the gym to get more hours of work in. However, I have realised over time that you don’t necessarily become more productive as a result.

It works for short periods of time but becomes a bit of a false economy over time. As a result, I have started to try and focus on wellness to become more productive in the time I use, rather than just trying to work endlessly and exhausting myself.

Your policy wish list:

I think there are already quite a lot of great, government-led initiatives out there for start-ups, so don’t have a lot on my wishlist from that point of view.

One thing that would be good though, would be a much simpler, clearer way of applying for certain incentives. Because applications can be complicated and confusing, you tend to find a lot of third parties profiting from the incentives in return for helping start-ups. The intention of initiatives like R&D Tax Credits is to help companies grow, but a decent percentage of the cash is being lost to these third parties because of the difficulties.

Your biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs…

Surround yourself with the best people you can find, but keep that group of people as diverse as possible. Why? You cannot do everything yourself and diversity leads to many different opinions, out of which you’ll get the best results.

Guilty pleasure…

Excel nerdery.

What would make you a better leader?

Being a startup means there’s always a lot of work to do. That can come at the cost of spending time with the people you work with. I’d like more time in the day to focus on colleagues, rather than just ‘work’.

The one app you use the most…

Slack. Communication is key, so I’m always on it!

A day in your life…

Up at 06:00 and on the train to London. In the office by 08:00 where I get a little bit of time on my own to go through emails, formalise the day etc. Stand up at 10:00 with the team, making sure we are on track with that week’s sprint and monthly objectives and then into the workday proper.

It will either be a day behind the desk focused on a variety of tasks, often related to data and marketing, or a day of meetings with retailers, investors etc. On the train home by 18:20 and back to my family. I tend to spend the evening enjoying their company as much as possible, but have been known to work then too…

On your reading list right now…

I normally read a lot of business-related books, but have had a break recently. I’m currently reading the Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell!

On your watchlist right now…

Sharp Objects with Amy Adams.

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