Interview: Sheraz Ramzan, chief commercial officer of QUIZ
Here we talk to Sheraz Ramzan, chief commercial officer of fashion retailer QUIZ, about his role in the company, challenges and opportunities, and his work in developing the QUIZ brand.
Tell us a bit about you and your career to date at QUIZ?
I was fortunate to gain a lot of experience from a young age working in the family business in various roles throughout the company during school and university holidays. I officially joined QUIZ in 2003 after completing an Honours degree in Engineering and a Master’s in Business Management.
At that time, our buying team were focussed on clothing categories and we had concession operators in our stores who supplied our footwear and accessory ranges. My task was to bring those departments in house, create our own footwear and accessory ranges and develop a new supply chain. That role quickly evolved into business development as I started to focus on expansion opportunities in the UK and internationally. QUIZ became a public company several years ago after floating on the London Stock Exchange at which point, I took the role of chief commercial officer.
What are your main areas of focus in your role?
I am involved in quite a number of areas within the business; however, my main focus is in developing the company growth strategy and constantly looking for new opportunities for the QUIZ brand. I work closely with various departments including marketing, ecommerce, IT, international, product and supply chain to ensure we are setting the right strategies to successfully evolve the QUIZ brand
Tell us about how the company moved from being a manufacturer to a retail business
Our roots are in clothing manufacturing (a business that my grandfather started many years ago when he emigrated to Scotland). My father took over at a young age and successfully developed that business until retailers began to focus their buying from oversees. At that point (in the early 1990s) my father saw an opportunity and moved into retail with our first three stores in Glasgow.
The QUIZ brand was born and grew successfully due to our inherent focus and passion for product. QUIZ started off as a general value fashion brand, however over the years we developed a much more focussed brand proposition which has resonated strongly with our customers and allowed us to weather many storms. The retail landscape has changed significantly over the years and many of our competitors have disappeared whilst the QUIZ brand has continued to grow.
Like most occasion wear retailers, QUIZ’s sales were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. What did the company do to kickstart a recovery?
Like many businesses we had to pivot and adapt to a radically new and uncertain environment. With the general population at home, the demand for evening and occasion wear had disappeared and the more casual or lounge wear orientated brands were seeing huge demand online. We developed more of a casual wear offering and launched a lounge wear range, however our view was that the demand on these categories would reverse once the pandemic was over and people were allowed out again. This was evidenced each time that restrictions were temporarily lifted as we saw a spike in demand for going-out and occasion wear in stores and online across the business. Therefore, our focus was to survive the lockdowns and ensure that the QUIZ brand was in good shape to take advantage of the opportunities once the pandemic was under control. In that time, we streamlined the business, undertook a brand review/refresh and strengthened our buying and design teams to ensure we had an enticing proposition ready for our customers. We’ve come out of the pandemic debt free with LFL’s holding up well against 2019 levels so the QUIZ brand is in a strong position.
At one stage QUIZ restructured its store portfolio due to more shoppers moving online during the pandemic, but is now opening more stores. Tell us how that’s going and why physical stores are important to QUIZ?
Despite the rise of online over the years, we’ve always believed that an omnichannel model would prevail. Like most retailers, we had to streamline our business and close some unprofitable stores (including many department store locations that were lost with the hosts’ demise). However, we are now operating in a new retail landscape where many of our peers have either been swallowed up by online-only operators or have completely closed. We see opportunity with stores in the right locations and on the right cost base.
Stores help grow brand awareness and support digital sales, so if a customer wants to buy a beautiful QUIZ item, we’re happy to offer them that experience in a store or online. We are investing in our retail systems which will further enhance our omnichannel offerings and the customer experience. Therefore, we will keep growing the QUIZ brand online and offline wherever we see the opportunity and wherever our customer demands.
Can you tell us about customer trends at QUIZ?
We have noticed that customers’ average items per basket have reduced slightly both online and in-store, but the average order value has increased. Customers seem to be becoming more selective in what they buy and are purchasing products they can wear more than once and can style up with accessories.
In addition, customers are becoming more aware of the impact their purchases have on the environment. In response to this, we have switched the QUIZ business to renewable energy and have changed to recycled and recyclable plastic packaging. We have also launched our first eco fashion range as part of our sustainability roadmap. Each style has been created using recycled polyester fibres to ensure environmentally responsible production.
Feedback from customers shows that people are starting to move away from fast fashion and are placing more emphasis on quality and garments that can be worn more than once. Our prices have increased like all retailers, but only slightly as we have absorbed some of the rising costs. Whenever we introduce price increases, we always try to ensure that products still have a strong value proposition.
So how did supply chain disruption in retail affect the business?
The disruption we experienced last year did not significantly affect our performance, although we had some delays with products coming in from the Far East and were impacted by the cost of air freight and containers going up. However, we were able to navigate these issues pretty well as we have a very agile supply chain and strong, longstanding relationships with our suppliers. If we have any issues, we can sit down with them to find solutions that work for both of us. A fashion business is only as good as its supply chain, so we support our suppliers to make sure they can help us deliver the right product at the right time for our customers.
QUIZ has worked with a number of celebrities and social media influencers. How do you pick your collaborators and measure the return on investment?
Our marketing team has formed collaborations with a range of celebrities, and this has worked well with our brand and audience. In terms of influencers, we are very lucky in that our team has a good understanding of which influencers will be right for our customer base.
We measure the success of the campaigns by examining our hourly sales performance as well traffic online and in-store. We also look at how we are performing on social media and gauge customers’ perceptions of our campaigns.
Although we typically target shoppers aged 18 to 35, we have a wide appeal and often see daughters shopping with their mums and even grandmothers in our stores. Customers want to buy something special to wear and look great when going to an event. Refining that proposition is what we focus on.
What are your future plans for QUIZ and what do you see as being the biggest challenges and opportunities over the next two years?
We are very pleased to have moved the brand back into profit, achieving strong positive growth since coming out of the pandemic period. Our focus is to continue evolving QUIZ and maintaining long-term profitable growth. There are many challenges including supply chain disruption, online returns, rising costs and inflation which are squeezing the consumer. However, there are always challenges in retail and QUIZ has managed to survive and emerge stronger each time we’ve been faced with difficulties.
As much as there are challenges there are also opportunities and as I mentioned previously, we are embracing all of those opportunities in this new retail environment. Brands have to become more sustainable, so that presents a great opportunity for QUIZ to become a greener business. We have significantly reduced our carbon footprint over the last couple of years and we are launching a sustainable range this month. There’s lots to do and we’re excited about the future – we have big ambitions for the QUIZ brand.
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