Decisions

David Jones, Next - Chairman and former CEO of the retail clothing chain

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

MY BEST ...

was to leave Great Universal Stores in 1980. It was a private type of public company - far too insular. A headhunter called just after chairman Leonard Wolfson gave me a 5% pay rise, when 17% had been agreed with the union for others. He really screwed me down. I resigned to become CEO of Grattan, and my salary doubled. My second-best decision was getting Next to buy Grattan in 1986, because it enabled us to launch the Next Directory. Catalogues were a dying breed, and I had to take Grattan into the high street.

Another good decision was hiring Simon Wolfson at Next. I had total confidence in his ability and it never once worried me that he was so young. After all, I had been young and talented once - I'd made CEO by the age of 33.

The age gap between us is not as important now as it once would have been.

I'm also glad I kept my Parkinson's disease a secret. It wouldn't be a good decision now, but 20 years ago, when there was still a big stigma attached to the disease, it was.

MY WORST ...

I should not have taken Next to America in 1992. No UK retailer has ever been successful in America, but at the very beginning we were arrogant enough to think that we could buck the trend. The other retailers who'd tried to do it had failed because they had run their US businesses from the UK. But if you're going to set up in America, you really have to transfer everything over there - run the business and the stores from there, not home.

Anyway, we decided to have a go and chose to enter the market in a low-level way, so we opened only five or six stores in the Boston and New York areas. I have to say that we gave it a good shot, and we kept the stores going for three years. Eventually, however, we had to close them down at a loss of £9 million.

The lesson I learnt from the experience was not to be so arrogant. Now we're just in the UK.

- David Jones' autobiography Next to Me is published by Nicholas Brealey at £18.99.

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