Private Brands Director | Globally Renowned Retail Business
Given the opportunity to undertake a global search for an accomplished international executive, NGS Global found an exceptional private brands leader who was not actively seeking job opportunities.
Our client was a globally renowned multi-billion-dollar retail business. Operating in a highly competitive international market, the company felt their fledgling private brands business could be substantially developed and optimized.
For many years, the company had heavily relied on revenue and profit generation from selling other companies’ branded products. This had served them well throughout much of the 2000s and 2010s, as they established their fleet of physical stores and retail infrastructure, and were known as a central retail hub, with extensive inventory and a well-known household brand name.
However, in the mid-2010s, this changed as pure-play online establishments such as Amazon and Alibaba gained increased market share, and consumer expectations and patterns morphed away from traditional, physical retail premises, because it became both cheaper and more convenient to purchase top-tier retail brands over the internet, particularly on mobile. This trend was then further exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.
For this reason, the company felt that being a traditional retailer of other organizations’ brands was becoming less appealing in the market. Instead, our client wanted to develop an extensive line of their own ‘private brands’ – labels and product lines that they had better control over, were available exclusively to them, and where they had higher margins and were able to capture more of their value.
The new role of the Private Brands Director was to be globally responsible for developing, launching, franchising, monitoring, and optimizing a wide range of existing and new private brands for the business.
Since the retail establishment had a significant presence in Asia, they wanted someone with extensive APAC experience, particularly in China, Japan, and SE Asia. However, they also wanted someone who was adept at operating in a collaborative, diverse, team-centric manner across cultures and geographies.
Strategy and Approach
The initial parameter was to get someone from Asia for Asia. However, we quickly realized that Asia's private brand sector is minimal, so a global search was required to deepen the talent pool and enhance the opportunity to recruit the best in class talent.
The role was to be based in Hong Kong, which presented its own challenges since this search was conducted during the COVID pandemic, when much of China and Hong Kong was in lockdown. It was not seen as a desirable place to move to by many executives.
Once we realized that the search should be global in scope, we worked to identify worldwide retailers who had successful collections of private brands. We then undertook extensive research to identify the talent in those companies, as well as utilizing our network of senior level contacts in the industry to gain greater insights. We also prepared a wide range of supporting documents, including a detailed investor presentation, which advocated the company’s strategy and the opportunity to candidates.
We talked to many relevant executives in the US, Europe, and Australia, where many retailers have significant and extensive private brands as part of their established retail strategy.
After an extensive, comprehensive, and strategic process, we secured the services of an exceptional private brand leader who met every experience metric and had the ideal personality profile.
The successful candidate understood sourcing and product development inside a global retailer and knew first-hand what it took to develop and launch private brands. She was based in the UK and had been with her employer since 2005; evidence of her loyalty and the long-standing value she had provided. Additionally, she had extensive experience working with private brands in Asia, having worked in the region for most of her career.
On a personal level, her referees spoke glowingly of her creativity, outstanding communication skills, and ethical approach.
Our NGS Global Value-Add
• Our extensive reach and network were paramount to the success of the project, particularly when the search pivoted to one with global scope
• Transparency with the client at all times, both with regard to the opportunities and challenges of the search, delivered through measured, weekly call updates
• Our mid-size positioning meant that we had absolutely no off-limits. This was extremely important, because there were only a very limited number of individuals globally who were perfect for the role (Asia experience, private brands executive, competitive retail environment, contemporary leadership style, wanting to move to Hong Kong). We were able to approach every one of the seven people we short-listed
• Strong advocacy on behalf of the company, its strategy, and the plans for their own label business, so that the opportunity was well presented to attract talented executives
• Attention to detail, agility, and a quality-first approach, which meant that headwinds such as the need for the client to have the executive based in Hong Kong did not adversely affect the project.