CHARLES BARKERCharles is the youngest of four and was born on the family farm outside Northallerton in North Yorkshire. He was educated at the local primary school, then at the secondary school in Northallerton and finally at Scorton Grammar school near Richmond, Yorkshire.

His retail career started early by selling bikes, crisps, sweets, record players and motor bikes to the other boys.

After leaving school he spent the next five years between helping on the farm, working in the store, and show jumping. This included a spell working in Brown Muffs department store in Bradford and then in 1973 a budget solo backpacking trip around the world. Between hitchhiking, jobs included petrol pump attendant, marine engineering in Canada and tin ore smelting in Australia.

On returning home he concentrated on working in the store eventually becoming a director and later Managing Director.

In 1992 Barkers joined AIS which opened a whole new world of opportunities, not least learning from other similar and better businesses.

In 1993 following an excellent visit to the Isaacs’ at Oldrids of Boston, and particularly their Downtown store, the decision was made to create a 20,000 sq ft furniture store on the edge of Northallerton. Moving furniture and carpets from the High Street created much needed extra space there for fashion and menswear. This move proved to be a great success for both stores.

“Barkers Furniture Store” has since been re- branded as “Barkers Home” and extended to 60,000 sq ft.

Now aged 68 Charles has taken a step back and his son Guy now runs the High Street store with his cousin Ian Barker running the Home Store and Distribution Warehouse on the edge of town.


GYLES BRANDRETHGyles Brandreth’s unique career has encompassed the role of Baron Hardup in Cinderella, MP for the City of Chester and Lord Commissioner of the Treasury. In the latter role, he countersigned the largest cheque in UK history alongside HM The Queen. He still speculates on which of them they didn’t trust.

As the Sunday Telegraph Review’s Editor-at-Large and a journalist for many years, Gyles has interviewed a wealth of celebrities and world leaders. Many of these meetings were documented in Brief Encounters: Meetings with Remarkable People, a book described by doyen of interviewers Michael Parkinson as ‘quite superb’. Gyles’s vast oeuvre also takes in books on royalty (Charles and Camilla, Philip and Elizabeth), rhetoric (You Talkin’ to Me?), The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries, 7 Secrets of Happiness and numerous volumes of diaries as well as compilations of party games, jokes, brainteasers and quotations.

A habitual name-dropper, Gyles also speaks about leaders and leadership with lessons drawn from the biggest names on the world stage from Thatcher and Blair to Clinton and Bush, Charles de Gaulle, Richard Branson and Sheik Mohammed of Dubai. An expert after dinner speaker, Gyles adapts his huge store of personal anecdotes and tales to any audience with consistent success. From his early time wearing unusual knitwear on morning television to Westminster to writing, Gyles is now a regular on The One Show and Radio 4 institution Just A Minute. He has also appeared in Countdown’s Dictionary Corner more than any other guest, and made appearances on everything from Dr Who to The IT Crowd to The Gadget Show.


TOM GROCOTTTom Grocott heads up the PR & Social Media team at McCann Birmingham - a significant part of one of the country’s largest and most successful marketing agencies. They represent clients as diverse as Chupa Chups lollies to Sunseeker yachts, as well as our own Intersport division and Tom is ideally placed to share his knowledge to educate and inform AIS members.

With over 20 years in PR, working for companies such as Vodafone, National Grid, Greggs, Pukka Pies and the Premier League, he has a wealth of cross-industry experience creating powerful content which has real impact.



PHILIP HESKETHAfter a very successful career in advertising, Philip Hesketh is now a multiple, award winning professional speaker on the psychology of persuasion and influence. He helps people improve their relationships and increase their sales.

Philip’s two books on persuasion and influence; ‘How to Persuade and Influence People’ and ‘Persuade’ are both Amazon number one best sellers. His third book ‘The Rules for A Happy Life’ will be published in March 2020.



ALLAN LEIGHTONAllan started his career in Mars Confectionery as a Salesman in 1974. He worked his way up through the company before leaving in 1991. He then joined Pedigree Petfoods, where he was Sales Director until his appointment in 1992 to Asda Stores Ltd.

He began his career in Asda as Group Marketing Director and was appointed Chief Executive in September 1996. Allan was credited with turning what was once described as a 'basket case' into a highly profitable, successful business and in November 1999 he sold Asda to American giant Wal-Mart for £6.7bn. Following the sale, Allan was appointed the President and CEO of Wal-Mart Europe.

In November 2000 he left Asda Wal-Mart and developed a new work ethic - ‘Going Plural’ - as he took on non-executive director and non-executive chairman positions in a number of companies including, Scottish Power, Dyson Ltd, Cannons Group Ltd, Bhs Ltd, BSkyB Group plc, Selfridges & Co, PACE plc and the shoe retailer Office.

Allan joined the Royal Mail as company Chairman in 2002, whilst in post he drove a period of modernisation that has transformed Royal Mail from loss making into a profitable business.

Allan stepped down from his role in March 2009 making him the Royal Mail’s longest serving Chairman.

Allan was President of Loblaw Companies Ltd from April 2008 and was Deputy Chairman at George Weston Ltd (Holding company of Loblaw) from 2000. In February 2011, Allan announced that he was stepping aside as President and Deputy Chairman of Loblaw.

In August 2010, Allan was appointed Chairman of the Danish jewellery company Pandora and took over as Chief Executive in July 2013. Allan stepped down as Chief Executive in February 2015 and from the Board in March 2018.

In February 2015 Allan took on the role as the first independent non-executive Chairman of the Co- operative Group, Allan's appointment marks a key point in the turnaround strategy of the group.

As well as his position at the Co-operative Group Allan is currently, Chairman of the Trustees at Canal and River Trust, Chairman at Entertainment One Ltd, global leaders in film, music and television, Chairman of Element Materials Technology, Chairman of Allbright, NE Chairman of Simba Sleep, NED of The Restaurant Group and in September 2019 was appointed Chairman of the leading global fashion retail business C & A AG.

Allan has also been the Chairman at Race for Opportunity and Business in the community, as well as Business Ambassador for HRH the Prince of Wales as he is passionate about people, diversity and the responsibility that businesses have within their wider environments.

He has an Honorary Degree from Cranfield University, an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Lancashire in recognition of his outstanding achievements in Business, Doctor of Business Administration from York St John University, as well as attending the Advanced Management Programme (AMP) at Harvard University. Allan is a Patron of Breast Cancer Care and all proceeds from his books ‘On Leadership: Practical Wisdom from the People Who Know’ and ‘Tough Calls’ go to this charity as part of his pledge to raise £1m for this fantastic cause.


ANDREW NEILAndrew Neil is a publisher, writer, businessman and broadcaster. He is Chairman and Editor-in- Chief of Press Holdings, owner of The Spectator and various titles around the world. On-screen he hosted the irreverent late-night look at politics, This Week, for 16 years and continues to regularly present Daily Politics. Off screen he is Chairman of ITP, the large, Dubai-based magazine publisher and Chairman and co-owner of World Media Rights, an international factual television producer.

Starting out working in local journalism Andrew then became an advisor to the Secretary of State for the Environment in Edward Heath’s Government. He then joined The Economist, initially reporting from the US covering Washington and New York, where he also started reporting for broadcast media.

Andrew returned to the UK as British Editor of The Economist before becoming Editor of The Sunday Times. At the same time, he was appointed Executive Chairman of Sky Television, overseeing the satellite broadcasters launch which would revolutionise the UK media landscape. He also served as Executive Editor at Fox Television News in the US and later published Full Disclosure, an autobiography of his time in the Murdoch organisation.

A respected, versatile broadcaster and opinion leader, Andrew is at the forefront of international media, business and political commentary. He has fronted coverage of politics at home and abroad on Sunday Politics, BBC Parliament’s Politics Europe and Daily Politics and brought a dry wit and incisive take on politics and politicians on This Week. Andrew has reported for programmes as diverse as Tomorrow’s World and Radio 4’s Today programme, was a member of the international Advisory Board of Al Jazeera and publisher of the Scotsman Group of newspapers for 10 years.


ADAM PEATYAdam Peaty MBE is the current Olympic 100m Breaststroke champion and 50m and 100m Breaststroke World champion.

As a young child, Adam was terrified of water. He hated the pool and used to climb up his mother’s arms whenever they went swimming. This fear eventually turned into a passion for swimming and a school swimming gala led to him joining Dove Valley Swimming Club at the age of 10 and then at 14 he trialled for City of Derby.

His Freestyle was a disaster but his Breaststroke got him noticed.

2015 World Swimmer of the Year and four-time European Swimmer of the Year Adam Peaty made history at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games when he became the first British man since Adrian Moorhouse in Seoul 1988 to win an Olympic swimming Gold medal. Adam went on to win a team Silver medal on the final night of the competition in Rio, which was British Swimming’s best ever Olympics since 1908 and led to him receiving an MBE as part of the 2016 New Year’s Honours List.

Adam’s event, the 100m breaststroke, is an individual event which he has not been beaten at since early 2014. Adam will often talk about the importance of the team around him, and while it is Adam that races and stands on the podium, it is the team around him that helps to give him the edge and stand apart from his competitors.