As we look forward to this year’s Business Awards, as sponsor of the Lifetime Achievement Award, we consider some guiding principles for leading innovation, as demonstrated by previous category winners. This week we explore the importance of strategy.
After introducing the theme of innovation last week, we highlighted that this phrase isn’t confined to white lab coats or busy R&D departments filing patents. It’s a spectrum of activity from ‘radically new’ to fresh thinking in the pursuit of ‘better’. Indeed, innovation needs to run through as the blood of an organisation, across everything you do, to ensure success.
From the outset an organisation should consider innovation as part of its strategy. Here it’s about creating winning products or services – in the right markets and for the right audiences. And doing this faster and better than your competitors.
One of Gloucestershire’s greatest retail success stories – Superdry – did just that. The brainchild of Julian Dunkerton, who deservedly picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, it was his entrepreneurial skills and innovative strategic direction that led to the creation of this fashion phenomenon.
The business began as Cult Clothing on a market stall in Cheltenham where Julian started selling Japanese street-styled T-shirts. This design was new to the UK, a first, and something different – this was part of his winning formula.
What was also key was Julian’s innovative marketing positioning. Keen to retain a low profile (to avoid being copied) and to keep costs to a minimum, Julian opted to open his stores away from the High Street. As well as giving him competitive advantage through reduced costs, this also influenced the brand’s identity – creating an edgy and desirable product that people wanted.
It was this innovative market positioning, finding a different business model to others, along with Julian’s leadership skills, that built the success of the organisation. In the 1990s, the company became a retail chain that was expanding into shops off the High Street, in University towns and cities, and received several key celebrity endorsements from David Beckham, Jamie Oliver and Leonardo DiCaprio amongst others. The company was becoming a global lifestyle brand.
It wasn’t until 2003, together with co-founder James Holder, that Julian established the Superdry clothing brand. It was his deep understanding of the brand, strong commercial instincts and a feel for its target customers, developed through his hands-on experience of building Superdry from the ground up, that supported this success.
In 2010 the company floated on the stock market with a valuation of £400 million and by December of that year it had a market capitalisation of £1.2 billion. At the time when Julian fully exited the business in 2018, Superdry is sold in 157 countries.
Today, Julian continues to invest in Gloucestershire using his entrepreneurial skills with business interests including The Lucky Onion Group and the development of Dowdeswell Park. No doubt he’ll be using that same innovative strategic spirit as he did over three decades ago to help build further organisational success.