Ex-Disney Stores boss says Wrexham can still be top of the shops


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A miner’s son from Wrexham who rose to become the boss of all the Disney stores across Europe is returning to his hometown to share the secrets of his success.

Chris Davies will be discussing the future of the retail sector in North Wales with members of an influential business group, Wrexham Business Professionals (WBP) on Thursday, April 19.

The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond.

Mr Davies was senior Vice President of Walt Disney’s European retail operation and also worked as a CEO at leading brands such as Staples, Hunter and HSS Hire.

The topic for discussion at the meeting at the town’s Ramada Plaza Hotel will be Powering Regional Prosperity – Banking on the High Street.

The other keynote speaker will be Giles Thorley, CEO of the Development Bank of Wales.

Mr Davies, who retired in 2015 after 40 years in marketing and retail, will be talking about his belief in a prosperous future for the high street, the impact of Brexit and his past experiences in the fast-paced world of retail.

The 64-year-old, who was born in Wrexham to a mining family before moving to Scotland as a young child, will also be talking about his role as an ambassador for the NSPCC.

The father-of-two said: “The retail sector changes all the time so that will be a theme I will be bringing into my talk.

“But my style is not to give people advice. There will be people there who run very successful businesses and I’m not going to tell them how it should be run.

“All I can do is share my experiences and thoughts. The focus will be on the changes in the sector, along with the challenges and opportunities.

“The retail environment has always has been a fast changing area of business.

“There is always a new trend, a new focus, a new ‘big thing’. It changes rapidly.

“The key thing is how you handle that. How you cope with it, embrace it and use it to your advantage is what you have to think about.”

At the meeting Mr Davies will be keen to emphasise his confidence in the future of the high street, although he admits having a clear plan will be paramount to a prosperous future.

He said: “The High Street faces quite a significant challenge. Am I confident in the High Street? Yes. But planners, retailers and politicians need to get their heads together and say what do we want it to look like?

“What we don’t want is towns and cities with empty centres. The process of consumerism is a social activity.

“I don’t think people want to sit behind a computer or a mobile phone all the time to do their shopping.

“Of course the way you shop has changed and you have to manage that but it’s key that customers coming into shops get good value and that their expectations are met.”

During his career Mr Davies has turned around the fortunes of companies such as Hunter and HSS Hire, but inevitably members of the WBP will be keen to hear about his experience working for global giant Disney.

“It was a great business to work for”, said Mr Davies, who lives in Buckinghamshire. “It has a massive heritage, it’s an institution.

“I was senior Vice President for the Disney retail stores in Europe so therefore I had access to some very interesting people.

“If you’re interested in the process of marketing, Disney are the gold standard.

“In terms of brand management and how they leverage that brand across different businesses, to see it first-hand was a fantastic experience.”

He added: “Like any business, every day I would have to try and make it better than the day before.

“Things don’t always work smoothly. Working across countries meant different markets threw up challenges.

“What sells in certain countries differs to others. You’re dealing with different labour relations and the way you acquire real estate. It’s fascinating.

“I travelled all over the world, spent a lot of time in the US and Far East, but mainly I was based in Europe.

“My style has always been to be very close to the business. When you manage a chain business you have to go to them, they won’t come to you.

“I spent a lot of time visiting stores, not sitting back behind a desk. Customers and staff are the two groups who know more about the business than any other source so for me it was key to spend time with them.”

Another topic up for discussion is Brexit – an issue Mr Davies believes needs addressing as soon as possible for the benefit of businesses.

He explained: “The worst thing for businesses is the uncertainty. What are the options? What are the threats? How do we handle it? These are the questions.

“That uncertainty is more challenging than the actual change itself. Dealing with it will be like any process of change.

“You could ask five people what they’d expect Brexit to look like and you’d probably get five different answers.

“I personally feel frustrated with the situation. Brexit is like a large political football rather than something that should be managed for the best of the UK.”

Next month’s meeting will see Mr Davies return to the place of his birth and although he no longer has family in the area, his work with the NSPCC has enabled him to maintain links with the town.

He explained: “My main local connection is now through my work for the NSPCC where I currently focus on corporate fundraising to support the charity’s work in North Wales.

“I am also a member of the NSPCC  Appeals Board for Wales. My family is now widespread like many. Originally we were miners with both dad and my grandfather working at Gresford and Llay Main.”

In November last year the NSPCC was WBP’s chosen charity to support at a dinner which raised around £2,500.

WBP chair Gill Kreft said: “We are thrilled and delighted we have been able to attract two such brilliant speakers to our next meeting.

“Chris is undoubtedly one of the most successful business people to come out of Wrexham and I am sure what he has to say will be an inspiration to our audience while we are also looking forward to hearing about his role for the NSPCC, which is such an important charity and one that deserves our support.

“The fact that the Welsh Government in general and Economy Secretary Ken Skates in particular decided the headquarters of the Development Bank of Wales should be in Wrexham has provided the area with a massive economic boost.

“I know the chief executive Giles Thorley has some big plans and it will be fascinating to learn more about how the bank will be playing its part in powering regional prosperity.”

For more information about the meeting and Wrexham Business Professionals contact Kate Edwards on 01978 752500 or at admin@wrexhambusinessprofessionals.com or go to the website www.wrexhambusinessprofessionals.com

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