Name: Steve Robinson
Was: CEO, Tesco Direct
Now: CEO, Omnicommerce
Years in grocery: Two
Career background: After moving up the ranks within Kingfisher, Robinson moved to Argos in 2001 as finance director. In 2005, he left to be CEO of Tesco Direct. After two years, Robinson moved on to online clothing retailer M&M Direct, where he served as CEO for four years before setting up his own consultancy, Omnicommerce. In January 2012, Robinson became chairman of online bicycle accessory retailer Pro Bike Kit and also joined B&Q as interim multichannel director.
What was your biggest achievement in grocery? “Tesco Direct was great. If I had to pinpoint something, I’d say it was the timescale and budget we did it on, given the complexity of the thing. Compared with people like M&S we did it for much less budget-wise. At the time, nobody else was doing ‘order online and collect in-store’.”
How did Tesco change during your time there? “In the two years I was there, the number of people at my level of seniority - one below the board - increased rapidly. As Tesco grew, its senior talent expanded. That was a turning point. UK grocery had been in disarray, but the competition had just started to get its act together.”
What made you leave Tesco? “Just another opportunity, really. I had the chance to do everything we’d done at Tesco, but in a smaller business, at a more detailed level, for slightly better pay!”
How do you feel Tesco is performing now? “It’s found itself with tougher competitors than five or six years ago. But it’s a bit naive to write it off. We’re in a really tough recession and its exposure to general merchandise is much higher than others. But Tesco will always be a strong retailer.”
Do you envisage returning to grocery? “I’ve always been opportunistic, so don’t write it off!”
Where are you now? Are you searching for a former colleague who you’d love to get in contact with again, or would you like to appear in this column? Contact Beth Phillips on email@example.com or 01293 610227.