James Leeson

Wal-Mart and Amazon have defined and innovated the retail market landscape.  1962 and 1994 were moments in time when both Sam Walton and Jeff Bezos began to build on an idea anticipating a changing consumer trend.  Both leaders could see that at the heart of their vision was one important factor: delivering an experience customers didn’t know they wanted.

Wal-Mart is going through a significant period of reinvention. They are stepping up their grocery game and buying trendy digital brands.  Selling Asda to Sainsbury signified that they had bigger fish to fry.  The company is redesigning its stores and building up its online assets.

Amazon continues to innovate.  What you see today probably started as a six-page narrative document 3-5 years ago describing in granular detail what a specific business idea would look like.  From books to TV’s to logistics to cloud computing to grocery to healthcare and voice technology, Amazon continue to disrupt where incumbents often state that its “too difficult”.

James will share how he challenges his clients to ‘remain or get ahead’ through re-invention.  He shares how his experiences (both offline and online) influenced his approach: building a clear view of what the next 2-5 years should look like.  Re-invention is likely required.  For Amazon, that’s not losing the ‘day 1 culture’ and Wal-Mart its “becoming a digital company” according to Doug McMillion the CEO.

James’ broader point is that the disruption and re-invention isn’t just digital, it’s simply being enabled and fuelled digitally.  Most successful business follow a consumer trend and James suspects there will be horizontal industry movements with unexpected business’s joining to connect better with the consumer.  This is in the context that consumers have fundamentally become more tech savvy.

When Wal-Mart acquired Asda, James seized this opportunity with a 3-year placement in Bentonville Arkansas to understand what it took to become a true ‘merchant’.  This resulted in James winning Buyer of the year in 2001 and was recognised with the Sam Walton Hero Merchant Award.

James understood as an early adopter in 2003-4 that something special was happening online.  He had to work for Amazon.  In January 2008 he joined initially as Director for Home & Garden then Director of Consumables launching 5 new stores including Grocery.

After an incredible 3 years at John Lewis (Head of Online Categories) helping to define and grow the online business, he set up his own business HAJOSO – helping companies define and build their approach.