Big interview: CEO John Roberts was part of the raft of retail stock market flotations confirmed at the start of 2014, and the CEO of the UK-based electricals e-tailer is looking to expand his business on an international scale in the months ahead.

With a new non-executive team containing some experienced retail names now in place and the launch of a German eCommerce site imminent, John Roberts is confident that his stated plans to grow the company at 25% a year are "on track" as he works towards making the business a pan-European retail player.

Question marks over the IPO valuation of the retailer have been raised by The City in recent months, with the share price down by more than 30% since February's flotation, but Roberts, who spoke to Essential Retail last week before the company's shares took another dip on Friday, argued that short-term pressures from The City will not result in him deviating from his stated long-term strategy.

"We set the three-to-five-year strategy out at the IPO, and that's what people invested in," the CEO explained.

"We built our business to where it is today by making the right long-term decisions and we do not feel the need to do anything short term for the benefit of any shareholder who wants to make a short-term return.

"Do I want to deliver an amazing return for all our shareholders? Of course I do. If I was being selfish about it, I'd be the biggest winner. Actually, I don't look at it selfishly; I am very grateful for the investors supporting us in the IPO and I want to deliver for them – and that's a pride thing as much as anything else."

Tomorrow (Tuesday 30 September) sees announce its pre-close trading statement, which will give the business an opportunity to inform the market about the progress made with the current strategy.

The strategy is one of generating significant annual profitable growth, underpinned by selling white goods to an online consumer. But the retailer's offering has been augmented this year with the addition of new categories such as kettles, toasters and televisions.

Sales of these new ranges are "building steadily", according to Roberts, but much of his current focus is being put towards preparing the business for its entrance into the vast German eCommerce market before the end of March 2015. operates its own fulfilment without the use of third-party carriers, so there is some extensive infrastructure work required to ensure the retailer can continue to offer its same- and next-day delivery options as it expands internationally.

"We plan to be a pan European player but the first step in any journey is normally the biggest, so we plan to take the biggest step in the biggest market and once we've learned the lessons and we're comfortable with how Germany is progressing, we plan to roll aggressively into the rest of Europe," Roberts remarked. recruited three non-executive directors earlier this year to aid its growth strategy, with the former board member at the Bosch and Siemens joint-venture BSH, Rudolf Lamprecht, considered someone who can help open up strategic partnerships around Europe.

Brian McBride, the ex-managing director of Amazon UK and current Asos chairman, also joined the team alongside former John Lewis Partnership financial director Marisa Cassoni. Roberts described them as a "dream team" of non-execs.

"We are a fast-growth, ambitious and aggressive eCommerce business that executes across the whole supply chain but when you look to see who has that kind of experience, who has lived it and who has grown up with it, there aren't that many people," he said.

"I always want people who have done it, rather than people who just talk about it – let's just say I'm not a big fan of management consultants."

Roberts is quick to emphasise that the technological innovation at, which saw the business quickly launch same- and next-day delivery options as well as develop a significant social media following (more than 1.5 million people are engaged with the brand on Facebook), comes from its team of 100+ IT professionals and substantial marketing team.

Roberts, too, has a novel approach of engaging with consumers in that he responds personally to each customer complaint that is directed his way.

"It's a great incentive not to get things wrong, but when we do you'll get a letter of apology from me – it keeps me completely and utterly in touch with what's going on," the CEO commented.

"I accept that things go wrong in life but it's a very British thing not to apologise, more to argue about who was right and wrong. We don't care who was right or wrong, we also don't believe that the customer is always right, but what we do believe is that we always want to make the customer happy."

Aware of how quickly customer requirements can change, Roberts does not rule out ever operating physical stores to compliment the online retail business, although it is not currently something he believes needs to have as part of its portfolio.

Click & collect is a retailing tool that might have a place within the AO model of the future, however, especially now that the company has started to sell smaller electrical items that could be picked up from lockers or convenience stores.

"I like the economic model of click & collect a lot because the economics of delivering to a customer's house versus the economics of delivering more products to a point for them to collect shifts some of the cost burden back to the consumer, enabling us to offer better value," Roberts noted.

"I think it has a long-term future but there is a lot of development work to undertake [before we know the best format]."

With international expansion in the pipeline and ambitious targets for revenue generation, it would seem there is already plenty to keep Roberts and his team occupied in the digital world. And with an investor and analyst call scheduled for tomorrow, there are sure to be further pressing questions that require answering later this week.

Update: [ actually announced on Tuesday that its online operation in Germany, will launch on 1 October 2014 – six months ahead of schedule. The site will initially be live for pre-orders, but will start deliveries on 14 October.]

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