Alan Giles: Music man books a place in global retailing

The Player: Alan Giles, Group Chief Executive, HMV Media

PERSONAL DETAILS: Aged 44. Lives in Berkshire. Drives BMW 7-Series. Pay: undisclosed. He is passionate about football and supports Southampton, but also has a Reading season ticket "because I like to hedge my bets".

CHALLENGE: "It is a time of unprecedented change in really all the markets we are in," says Mr Giles. HMV Media encompasses the retail brands of Waterstone's, Dillons and HMV. Mr Giles says the group's challenge is "to continue to keep the role of the book in the bookshop central in the busy lives of people as we move into the next century". HMV is one of the few British retailers to have successfully traded overseas. In future years the challenge is "to move what has been two wonderfully successful domestic brands and achieve the same degree of success and market domination in a world sense".

CORPORATE BACKGROUND: Worked at Boots and WH Smith in a variety of buying and marketing roles. In 1985, Alan Giles was asked to head-up the book- buying operation of WH Smith. In 1988, at the top of the UK housing market, he moved within WH Smith to run Do-It-All, the struggling DIY retailer. He looks back on this period as "four pretty bloody years". Towards the end of 1992 he was asked to run Waterstone's, then part of WH Smith. He was one of two joint chief executives appointed when a consortium including Waterstone's founder, Tim Waterstone, acquired the Waterstone's, Dillons and HMV businesses and established HMV Media Group. Stuart McAllister recently stepped down as joint chief executive due to ill health.

STRATEGY: "Global exploitation of the brands both in books and music," says Mr Giles. Although the businesses are separate they have similar characteristics. Mr Giles sees "fantastic opportunities" in international retailing. HMV is already the number one music retailer in Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and Ireland, and is number three in the important Japanese market. In the short term he believes there is ample scope to invest in existing markets, notably Germany. Mr Giles says the group is "not just invading hoards of Brits", adding that the flexibility of the business and brands enables the businesses to reflect local markets in terms of product and staff.

The book business is essentially a British one. Waterstone's is opening a new generation of large superstores. Mr Giles sees Dillons and Waterstone's as complementary brands that appeal to different sections of the book- buying public.

Music and books both face competition from Internet retailers such as amazon.com. "I have a lot of respect for amazon," says Mr Giles, who views the Internet as a "complementary" distribution channel. Far from diminishing book sales, Mr Giles says each new generation of technology has "only served to increase the market". In many bookstores The Rough Guide to the Internet tops the best-seller lists. Both HMV and Waterstone's have entered into a partnership with Yahoo! in the UK to provide free access to the Internet and extensive on-line advertising for each of the businesses. Although it is early days, Mr Giles says "the level of customer take-up has been very, very pleasing". In addition, HMV has a partnership with IBM Global Services to develop HMV's Internet sites.

MANAGEMENT STYLE: He is a strong believer that "you adapt your management style to the situation". At Do-It-All, Mr Giles says he had a more directive style than he would normally feel comfortable with. "It was a question of survival," he says. However, his preferred style is "very informal, involving and listening". People say he is demanding. He advocates decentralised decision-making. "It is an incredibly effective model to run a business," he says.

MOST ADMIRES IN BUSINESS: The Gap, which he says "has absolute clarity, consistency and is executed with extraordinary passion". In terms of business leaders, Mr Giles cites Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy, chief executive of Kingfisher, who "has done a fantastic job". "He is the first person who has truly started to build a European-scale retail business", he added. Other names mentioned include Eddie Bell, chairman of publishers HarperCollins and David Simons, chief executive of Somerfield. Mr Bell is described as, "a survivor and is completely unchanged in terms of his enthusiasm and passion for the business". Of Mr Simons, Alan Giles (who is a non-executive director of Somerfield) says "he has been so clear-minded and determined in transforming the reputation of that business and has done a fantastic job for the shareholders".

CITY VERDICT: "There's a lot of potential still to roll the brand out, certainly in Japan," said one analyst, commenting on HMV Media's music business. The group's Internet developments in both books and music are expected to be very successful and serve to "totally reinforce the brand identity". City analysts are anticipating more synergy benefits from the Dillons acquisition with the possibility of multi-branding. Within the next two years HMV Media is expected to float on the London Stock Exchange. Its nearest competitor is WH Smith whose stockmarket rating has received a significant boost from its Internet developments.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£12500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Adviser - OTE £24,500

£22500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Inbound and outbound calls with...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £40,000

£18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'