Big Interview: SuperGroup CEO on Brexit, eCommerce and music tech

If Euan Sutherland, CEO of SuperGroup, could put one thing on Theresa May's to-do list, it would be to ensure sensible trading laws come out of the UK's exit from the European Union. "We need to keep the UK as competitive as we can," he tells Essential Retail.

"I would hope now we've got a new prime minister and more certainty in the cabinet that we will get to more sensible trading negotiations, around things like the digital single market, we could still be part of that, there are clear benefits of having those ties with our EU partners."

But whether or not the UK remains part of the EU's efforts to modernise online trading, SuperGroup is braced to ride the Brexit wave. "We have a very diversified global business already," he explains. "We've moved over dependency on UK-only to Europe and rest of world quite dramatically – 45% of our revenues are in euros, 55% of the business is outside the UK – we're operating on much more of a global platform."

International is clearly a huge part of SuperGroup's business strategy, with a significant presence in Europe as well as progress being made in the newer markets of the US and China.

Sutherland says the company will be able to hedge currency fluctuations for the next 18 months, through distribution ventures in the US, EU and UK. But ultimately, he believes SuperGroup has a huge amount to add to the European and global market, in terms of digital and eCommerce.

"Because we're leading the way," he says, describing how the retailer can deliver from its UK distribution centre to a US customer faster and cheaper than most other US-based retailers. "There are even a huge number of US states, where we don't have a physical store, but there will be high eCommerce sales – customers are consuming brand and ordering it because our delivery promise is good, fast and efficient, it's a great experience."


Over the last year, the retailer has heavily invested in its eCommerce business, from front-end consumer experience through to back-end infrastructure. Meanwhile, its delivery proposition is one of the best in the market with orders made by 10pm available for collection from noon the next day in any of the UK stores or delivered to a customer's home.

SuperGroup now has 26 international websites across 18 countries covering 12 different languages, delivering to 173 countries.

"It feels very local in Malaysia, or if you're in the US or Germany," says Sutherland. "And we have much lower returns on the web. The highest returns market is Germany – but that's more of a cultural thing – relative to other retailers it is very low."

The retailer says its returns rate percentage for online orders is in the "mid-teens", which sits below the the fashion sector average of around 25%.

Today, the retailer announced a jump in full-year pre-tax profits of 16.3% to £73.5 million. Revenue was up 21.3% to £590.1 million and eCommerce grew to become 23.1% of total retail sales.

Sutherland says he has made "significant strategic progress" after completing his first financial year as CEO of the retailer. And so confident in the Superdry brand, is the CEO who traded in groceries for fashion when he left the Co-op, that he announced the company's first special dividend of 20p to be paid to shareholders in addition to the final ordinary dividend.


The biggest infrastructure improvement over the last year was a project to ensures there is a single stock pile for both eCommerce and retail operations. Sutherland says this gave eCommerce a big boost and was delivered in time for Black Friday, allowing the retailer more capacity over the peak period.

The next stage of this project is to include inventory from its wholesale business to improve the supply chain even more for its customers. Meanwhile, Sutherland says in the calendar year 2017/18 the retailer will embark on replatforming its eCommerce website.

"We're continually invested in the look and feel of the website, we've tried to recreate the feel of campaign shots, instead of just selling functional pictures, and have invested in content management of all of that."

SuperGroup's customer insight CRM programme is also used to understand customer buying behaviours and help the retailer anticipate online sales and general product trends. "It does help our demand planning and helps in double checking in design inspiration and that they are on trend, and to shape the right demand for the next season."

Sutherland and his management team are also very aware of the impending threat of cybersecurity. While the retailer has not fallen victim to any form of attack, the company is preparing and ensuring it has the right security processes in place.

"That's just a natural good governance thing to do," he says. "And it's the right thing to do with a growing business and brand with a high profile."

In-store technology

Meanwhile, the retailer is also investing in technology for its stores. Over the last year, it has been trialling a new store environment in its White City and Arndale Centre shops. Sutherland describes how technology implementations range from free customer Wi-Fi through to a new music app for customers.

"Music is a big part of our cultural connection with customers," he explains. "We get a lot of customers coming into our stores saying they love the music selection and asking where they can get it. So as you go into the store you can have it on your phone and download that."

Other music tech investments include the introduction of wave-based technology. "We have relatively loud music in our stores, people like it but also like to be able to speak over the top of it."

Sutherland describes how there are new large speakers sitting on the floor in the two refitted stores. "Even if you stand right next to them, it is the same decibel level, meaning you can speak to the person next to you and have a conversation."

Learnings from these technology deployments will be considered for a full store re-fit programme which SuperGroup anticipates will begin to roll-out in the next calendar year.

SuperGroup is also looking to increase the contactless payment limit from the industry standard of £30. With two-factor authentication, seen on mobile payment devices, the limit can be raised at the discretion of the retailer.

"Part of our strategy says we're going to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy our product whenever and wherever they want," he explains. "And the contactless feedback is really easy and customers are increasingly trusting of the technology – we have a very tech-savvy customer base and want to offer them leading edge technology."