Five minutes with… Kate Walmsley, Co-founder of Tern Eco

Five minutes with… Kate Walmsley, Co-founder of Tern Eco
Published: 3 May 2022

In the latest instalment of our ‘Five minutes  with…’ interview series, Berwick Partners Fran Grant  talks to Kate Walmsley, a highly experienced Digital and Ecommerce Director who has worked with retailers including New Look, Topshop, and Dr Martens. Kate is also the co-founder of Tern Eco, a one-of-its-kind trade-in app designed to encourage retailers to embrace the circular economy.

As a digital expert, what does digital transformation mean to you?

Digital transformation is about embracing technology across the whole business to improve efficiencies and customer experience. It’s how you use data and how you leverage digital platforms.

What are some of the biggest roadblocks organisations face on a transformation journey?

The world of digital can feel quite foreign or complex – and this leads to a mindset that only certain individuals or departments have the knowledge or ability to use digital tools, which creates an artificial barrier, alienating some people and making others the gatekeepers.

The truth is, there’s a knowledge gap, and everyone needs to upskill, in all roles.

We must educate people to stop believing digital is a ‘thing’ or a ‘channel’ specific to one team – but rather something that can be shared and embraced across the entire organisation. We must bring people along on the journey with us. We must use data to make more informed decisions. Data can easily be perceived as something massively technical, but it’s not – there’s no big mystery or wizardry, it’s just information. It’s answering questions and looking at what’s out there in the world and using this information to make smarter decisions.

Do you think there are particular departments within organisations that tend to favour digital transformation, and any that tend to pose a challenge or resist it?

It all comes down to the culture of an organisation and whether they’re encouraging collaboration and working cross-functionally. It’s imperative for organisations to foster a culture or mindset where people know they’re working collectively to achieve a shared vision. A culture where people feel like they’re in a safe environment where they can be themselves, express their views, try new things, be vulnerable, share ideas, make mistakes.

What’s the best way to measure whether a transformation has been successful?

That all depends on what you’re trying to achieve as an organisation. It’s crucial to know what your goals are from the outset. There’s no cookie cutter approach to measuring success. Success could be about employee satisfaction, improving sales, productivity, company culture or a plethora of other metrics. You can’t underplay the importance of making it clear at the outset what it is you want people and teams to achieve.

What is it that is exciting you most in retail now?

That’s easy. The rise of re-commerce and the move towards a circular economy. It’s been a long time coming, but it feels like the stars are aligning, in part due to two-years of global disruption – awareness of the climate crisis, a shift in consumer mindset, the great resignation and a desire to work for purpose driven companies, greater government legislation, such as the right to repair, extended producer responsibility and the European Green Deal - all of which are forcing companies to recognise the role they play in society and the impact they have on the environment.

We can’t continue operating on a ‘take more, make more, waste more’ model that was the old linear economy. There’s a better way of doing things and a massive commercial opportunity that comes along with it, but it requires a change in how we produce and how we sell.

The circular economy aims to eliminate waste by keeping goods, and the materials they are made from, in use for as long as possible. Rental, repair, upcycling, recycling and resale are all examples of circular models that are gaining traction in the market now – and there is huge amount of innovation in this space from product design through to end-of-life solutions, enabled by data and technology.

It really is the most exciting part of retail right now – with the potential to change everything.

Fran Grant is a Consultant in our IT & Digital Leadership Practice specialising in recruiting Senior Technology and Digital professionals in Retail, Retail FS, Leisure and Hospitality, with a UK wide remit.

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