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The AIS Conference theme for 2013 - "Necessity is the mother of re-invention", is a re-working of a quote attributed to Plato from around 400BC and encapsulates that in difficult times businesses have to change and re-invent themselves in areas such as merchandising, range diversification, services and channels, if they are to make themselves relevant and compelling places to visit and shop in. All the speakers picked up on this theme and gave thought provoking presentations to members with valuable take outs and ideas they could go away and implement.
Luke Johnson is the Chairman of Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm he founded in 2001. For six years until 2010 he served as Chairman of Channel 4 Television.
Luke is Chairman/part owner of the restaurant business Giraffe, Chairman/owner of Patisserie Valerie and Chairman/part owner of Gail's. He is Chairman of 3Sixty Restaurants, owner of Rocket and Ego, Chairman of Draft House pubs and owner of Feng Sushi.
He was Chairman of Pizza Express plc in the 1990s. He co-founded the largest UK chain of dental surgeries, Integrated Dental Holdings and also co-founded restaurant chain Strada. He serves as a non-executive director at Metro Bank plc and chairs theatre charity Stage One and writes a weekly essay in The Financial Times.
John Ryan is a retail design journalist, commentator and consultant - an occupation he has followed for more than a decade. Currently he is Stores editor of Retail Week and Drapers in the UK, European editor for American retail design magazine VMSD as well as being a contributor to other retail and design publications.
He is also a speaker at conferences across the world and has spoken from platforms in Chile, Mexico, Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Norway, Denmark and the UK over the last 12 months.
A retailer by trade, John worked for C&A for 13 years, as a buyer and marketer in Germany and the UK, prior to joining the ranks of those who write and talk about retailing rather than participate in it.
Graham Kirkham, a coalminer's son, was born and brought up in Doncaster, South Yorkshire in England and has lived in that area all his life.
Not proceeding to further education he started ‘DFS' the vertically integrated furniture manufacturing and retailing business in 1969. DFS was a flourishing private company for 24 years and a successful Footsie 250 company on the London Stock Exchange for 12 years. Having grown to be the largest company of its kind in Europe, employing around 3,000 people, Graham Kirkham succeeded in buying the business back from the shareholders in 2004 and in 2010 sold 100% of the shares to the private equity company Advent International plc.
He now runs a private family investment company, Black Diamond, with interests including retail parks, farming and most recently, with Dubai and South African partners and the retailer's management, bought Iceland Frozen Foods for £1.55bn. Iceland employs 23,000 staff in the UK and serves 5 million customers each week. It was named the Best Big Company to Work For in the UK at the annual Sunday Times Best Companies Awards Dinner in February 2012.
He has been married for 47 years, has two children and five grandchildren.
Honoured with a Knighthood in 1995
Honoured with a Peerage in 1999
Honoured with a CVO in 2001
He received an honorary doctorate from Bradford University in 1997 and the accolade of Yorkshire Man of the Year in 2004.
He gives a great deal of time to supporting charitable causes as a Patron and board member, significantly including:
The Outward Bound Trust where he is Deputy Patron
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award - Trustee Chairman
The Animal Health Trust - Deputy President
The Graham Kirkham Foundation financially supports a wide range of local and national charities.