As the BRC interviews its shortlisted candidates for the post of DG, Liz Hamson reviews the challenges ahead

When Bill Moyes stepped down from the position of director general of the British Retail Consortium last month, there was always going to be a lot of interest in a job that pays pretty nicely and is widely seen as setting the incumbent on a fast track to a knighthood.
But few could have predicted quite how much interest. There were reported to be over 150 applications for the £130,000 to £150,000 post. Now, having waded through the applicants to pull together a list of 15 serious contenders and last week a shortlist of six, the recruitment panel of chairman David Felwick, Tesco’s Lucy Neville-Rolfe and Spar’s Morton Middleditch are interviewing the hopefuls - thought to include a number of high level civil servants as well as one or two retail MDs. The panel is expected to make an appointment next month, but will it go with the popular choice?
Within the BRC there is a feeling that after more than three years under Moyes, it is time for a change. One insider says: “Bill has transformed the BRC into a much slicker organisation and a more effective lobbying body, but many members saw him as a civil servant and that may have hampered him slightly. The BRC needs someone who understands retailers and can really talk to them, but who also understands Whitehall.”
The popular choice is Safeway’s director of communications Kevin Hawkins. “Kevin would be great - he’s well known and well liked here,” says the insider. So what are his chances?
Felwick refuses to be drawn on the identities of those on the shortlist. But he says: “We want them to fulfil three criteria: to be able to present a strong presence to the media, to have knowledge of and intimacy with the government and, finally, to have the skills set necessary to run a small business - because the BRC is not only a members’ organisation, it also has a trading arm.”
It is a tall order and the new director general faces several key challenges. Aside from winning back Arcadia, which ended its membership, the big one post-Safeway will be how to woo Morrisons to the fold. There is also the long-term question of whether the BRC would be better off as part of the CBI, though Felwick insists that the question is “dead and buried”.
In the short term, whether the panel plumps for a retail heavyweight or a civil servant, the new DG will need to hit the deck running. On April 29 the Retail Strategy Group report, highlighting the challenges faced by retailers over compliance, planning and property issues, is published.
And as well as playing a prominent role in driving the public debate, the new recruit must turn recruiter. Felwick’s two-year tenure expires in March and he’s agreed to extend it only for as long as it takes the new director general to get his, or her, feet under the table. The transformation of the British Retail Consortium is not over yet, it seems.