Claire Harper is a leading business figure who has unparalleled experience in marketing, change management, branding and enterprise. With the success of some of the UK’s leading brands to her name, including Argos, Ocado, Sainsburys and Mamas & Papas, Claire’s journey from corporate marketeer to fledgling entrepreneur is inspirational and full of valuable messages gleaned from working at the heart of business and implementing innovation and cultural change in influential and progressive brands.
Joining Argos at the time of a hostile takeover, Claire’s first foray into the psychology of shopping landed her in the deep end. Faced with the challenge of a brand struggling with the necessity to change, her learning curve in people management, understanding the customer and innovative technological change was steep, and with it her passion for taking brands to the next level grew. Already driven and ambitious, Claire thrived under the tutelage of influential mentors, and in time, she used her experience to move on to the next challenge.
At the age of 26 she joined the newly-launched Ocado as head of customer acquisition and PR and was soon promoted to head of marketing. At the heart of the proposition from the beginning, when online grocery shopping was clunky and ineffective, Claire led the extraordinarily visionary business into the thrilling, unexplored territory that has now become the way customers across the world shop every day.
In sync with creating the business and watching it grow, Claire’s passion and drive elevated her knowledge and experience to the highest level of influencing business, from where she could fight off competition, turn an entire concept on its head and create a whole new customer-centric space in the market.
Four years later she was headhunted to join Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King’s new leadership team to work her magic on the flagging brand and to make Sainsbury’s great again. Forward- thinking, and by now proficient at adapting business plans to reflect the ever-changing future, Claire successfully launched the supermarket giant’s multi-channel experience, and consolidated the brand with its customer communications.
With a hunger for new challenges, Claire’s move to Yorkshire placed her as the first ever female board director at nursery retailer Mamas & Papas, a strong family business which had moved from wholesale to retail. Tasked with growing the brand in the UK and abroad, Claire had to build and strengthen a positive culture, and to ensure that the business prioritised understanding the customer at the deepest level.
It was at this juncture of her career that Claire and her husband welcomed their first daughter Coco into the family, and Claire faced the challenge of balancing a successful and demanding job with taking care of a newborn. Honest and frank about her decisions, including some mistakes, Claire’s endearing interpretation of how women can try to have it all is inspirational and resounding.