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Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011: Wolf & Badger’s retail rebel

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Since the first Wolf & Badger boutique opened in February 2010, the brand with its revolutionary business model has taken the retail industry by storm. Wolf & Badger’s visionary co-founder and managing director George Graham won our Young Entrepreneur of the Year award at the Growing Business Awards 2011. A year later, we caught up with him on the future of retail and how young entrepreneurs can reach the top.

How has Wolf & Badger made the most effect on the retail landscape?

We have pioneered a unique concept of “serviced retail” that enables emerging independent brands to retail directly to consumers via our network of stores and online. This approach to retail has allowed many smaller fashion, jewellery and design brands, who might have otherwise disappeared into obscurity, to grow their own businesses and bring a more interesting, creatively driven fashion and design scene back to the UK.

In a nutshell, what makes you stand out?

Our unique approach to retail. We do not adopt industry norms and we present our customers and brands with an innovative and highly attractive retail concept.

You’re disrupting the retail market, a market that has changed massively under the weight of online and mobile shopping. A few years from now, do you see platforms like Wolf & Badger overtaking the high street or do you believe that it’s an interplay between offline, online and mobile channels that will create the retail experience of tomorrow?

It is all about multi-channel. There has been a lot of focus on online retail in the last decade. More recently, attention has turned to mobile commerce; now people are increasingly fascinated with social commerce driven by the likes of Facebook, Pinterest and so on. 

While all these channels are clearly important, it is critical not to actually lose sight of the importance of physical high-street retail as part of this mix. Retailers, particularly in industries selling more tactile products, such as fashion, need to understand the interplay between all retail channels, both online and offline, and tailor their offering to how their specific consumers are likely to want to discover, interact with, share and ultimately purchase their products.

What do you think will be the biggest change in the retail market in the next three years?

Social media will continue to drive much of the change, with an increasing number of purchase decisions being led or influenced by social networks. Increased information on products, provided by peers, will likely drive a lot more comparison-shopping and make competing on either price or quality (or ideally both) even more important for retailers. Contrary to the seemingly ongoing demise of the high street, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a small shift back towards high street retail, with some pureplay e-tailers taking “real world” stores in prime locations to act as showrooms where consumers may experience their products.

You won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award at last year’s Growing Business Awards. What’s your opinion on the support we give to young businesses in the UK today? Are we doing enough? What would you change?

There is support out there, it is just often hidden away in unexpected places and very difficult to find. I would like to see more done to put entrepreneurs in touch with experienced mentors in their industry, who can help develop ideas and guide business growth. 

In the meantime, I would encourage entrepreneurs to spend some time seeking out a mentor who can help them achieve their goals; there are plenty of people out there who want to see small businesses succeed and would be happy to give their time away, you just have to find them!

What’s the big vision for Wolf & Badger at the moment? Where do you want to be?

Our goal is to deliver a truly multi-channel retail offering that enables independent design brands to reach consumers in a more efficient manner. We are looking to expand our network of stores and continue to improve on the ‘experiential’ element of high-street shopping; we are also looking at further developing the online arm of our business, and starting to provide a far greater number of items available for purchase from the world’s finest independent brands. Watch this space!

What was your biggest career setback and what did you learn from it?

As with many entrepreneurs, finding a source of funds is usually the biggest hurdle. With much persistence we were able to find backers for Wolf & Badger, without whom we could not have reached where we are today, but it was a long and difficult process that took almost a year. My tip: be persistent!

Are you, or do you know, a potential Young Entrepreneur of the Year? The Growing Business Awards have been identifying and celebrating the UK’s future champions since 1999.

Nominations are now open for the 2012 Growing Business Awards. We’re looking for entries from “future champion” businesses and individuals across ten categories. Created by Real Business and the CBI, the Growing Business Awards are the most established recognition of UK entrepreneurial achievement. The awards are supported by Land Rover, the Financial Mail, Spring Law, Cass Business School, Your Business Your Future and bdaily. As well as huge prestige and coverage, a group of successful candidates will also be invited to an exclusive “high-performanceday” at McLaren Racing, as well as joining a delegation at the 2012 CBI Annual Conference. Nominations close on September 21.

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