New year, new department!


Our big news for 2018 is that Claire and Sue have attained recognised qualifications with Henley Business School and the Association of Coaching to become Executive Coaches and are already working with new clients!

Our focus with corporate clients will be to offer a range of coaching programmes for leaders and senior managers who would benefit from individual support in the following situations:
  • Onboarding – to support senior hires through their first 3 months
  • Development – for individuals in new or current leadership roles
  • Transition Coaching – for senior leaders leaving the organisation
We will also be working with individuals seeking to fund their own personal coaching programme – either alongside their work or as part of a transition into a new phase of their life.

We like to think that our business is constantly evolving in response to market needs and to this end we are introducing some new services into our offer.

Our Executive Coaching service will be ‘live’ by Autumn this year and will be headed up by Claire Beasley and Sue Willis.  Claire currently specialises in HR and Executive Search as well as being Joint MD.  We see this addition as a perfect complement to her existing portfolio and are very excited about the forthcoming launch.

Sue Willis spent 14 years in HR Management prior to entering executive search.  As a natural extension to her areas of expertise she will be adding a new psychometric assessment tool to support both executive search and senior coaching assignments within her current responsibilities as Director of our Head Office Practice.

We are confident that 2017 will be an even better year and we look forward to supporting your confidential search, coaching and testing requirements in the coming months.


Since launching in 2004, court & spark has seen some game changing moments within the commercial landscape that have not only changed the way we conduct our executive searches, but also the roles we are recruiting for.  Imagine a life without social media and electronic devices and drift back to a time when retailers were using carbon copy credit card machines and Oxford Street was dead by 6pm – a far cry from the fast-moving digital landscape we have now.

And then there’s Facebook. Also launched in 2004, it quickly established itself as the number one social site now used by more than 1.3 billion users globally.  With the addition of LinkedIn, Google+ and the like, candidates took advantage of the online CV and vast networking opportunities.  Not only did retailers have to respond to these changes, they quickly had to recruit the best digital talent for their businesses in a frenzy of ‘keeping up’.  These roles have expanded rapidly and continue to do so at a high rate. CIO’s, Multichannel Directors and E-Commerce Directors are now an integral part of the boardroom. Candidates have also responded by growing their knowledge and skill sets to ensure their offering to retailers is relevant and competitive.

Looking ahead to the next twelve years, we will relish seeing how the digital world continues to influence – and though higher usage of the internet in talent search has become routine, at court & spark we’ll continue to spend valuable face to face time networking, screening contacts and developing relationships with the movers and shakers in the real world.

As well as a shift from offline to online, the last few years have also seen an increase in female executives in senior leadership roles. Retail has always been a great career for women with some significant recent examples of female CEO’s, but commerce generally could do well to look to the public sector for inspiration.  It’s no coincidence that women are coming to the fore in many areas of public life – Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas, Leanne Wood and Ruth Davidson are leaders of five UK political parties and Cressida Dick has just been appointed as the first ever female Chief of the London Metropolitan Police force.  In an age of “Fake News” and “Alternative Facts” the population at large has become increasingly disenchanted with the revolving door of indistinguishable political leaders from the privileged classes and appears more inclined to trust a female candidate to tell the truth and to behave in a more even-handed, non- partisan way.

So now is the time for all women to take full advantage and ride the crest of the populist wave for more excellent female candidates in the top jobs.  At court & spark we are always happy to support both client and candidate in making this happen.


..with a record number of key executive placements at leading brands, including Shop Direct, Dunelm, White Stuff, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Charles Tyrwhitt, Kurt Geiger and Mon Purse.  We were delighted that our clients cited our reputation for high levels of integrity and trust as key factors in our relationship. They increasingly choose to work with us on projects of a sensitive nature where discretion and absolute confidentiality are required throughout the search process.  We are confident that 2017 will be an even better year. With the introduction of coaching and psychometric testing to strengthen our offer, we look forward to supporting your confidential searches in the coming months.

LinkedIn can be a really useful channel for business communications and staying in touch with your network. However, a number of retailers have recently briefed us to handle searches after they have spent significant time using LinkedIn as a candidate search resource without success. A LinkedIn search can certainly provide a starting point but a huge amount of time is needed to filter and interrogate the data and it is still critical to invest time in undertaking face to face interviews to get a sense of chemistry and personality. Of course, this assumes that LinkedIn represents a comprehensive view of available talent whereas, in reality, many don’t use it or have lapsed.

Some recent comments on LI forums complain of extremely inaccurate and unverifiable metrics with regard to ads placed on LinkedIn.  We have recently been told that only 3% of users are search professionals which (if true) means that busy people are going to be bombarded constantly by the ever-increasing number of out of work professionals, desperate to broaden their network.  Even companies with in-house resourcing teams can’t hope to keep up with such an onslaught of approaches – so much better to pay a professional search firm to sort the wheat from the chaff!

We are well aware that slashed budgets mean headhunters can be a luxury you feel you can’t afford, however in the long term it will almost certainly pay off.  A great search firm will never just rely on LinkedIn and its limited networks – only a delicate blend of mapping, research, referrals and a deep knowledge of the market will ever deliver the best person for the job. Of course, they may start with the internet but failing to access candidates not present online and a lack of screening means an internet based search can lead to wasted time and money.  We watch with interest to see whether bosses will continue to find Executives through LinkedIn, or if the bubble is finally bursting and they are recognising the value external expertise can bring to finding the best talent in the market.

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who responded to our feedback survey. We embarked upon this course of action following increasing anecdotal evidence that the market was lacking confidence and uncertainty was creating a subtle change in behaviours.  So, where better to get validation than straight from the horses mouths! Having sent our survey to about 3000 clients and contacts, we were very interested to discover that when it comes to recruitment needs, 40% of responders already use external search consultants but 100% would consider doing so in 2017. Encouragingly, no one felt that recruiting levels would fall in 2017, despite Brexit, and 60% felt they would be higher.  When asked about our new Coaching service, 40% of responders were interested in hearing more about it, although several businesses already handle it  in-house. However, 100% of responders were interested in hearing more about our new Career Transition service which supports individuals and organisations through workforce transformation.  Overall, our research shows that despite the doom and gloom portrayed in the press, business leaders are optimistic about growth and employment in 2017 and beyond.

‘Meet the Manufacturer’ is an event hosted by Kate Hills, founder of the Make it British website which aims to promote UK manufacturing and British made brands. Attending the second annual event in London last week, we were encouraged by the fast growing visitor numbers the show achieved, showing that there is ever-growing enthusiasm and passion for reinstating Britain as the world centre for fashion and textile production.

The two day event included a business to business trade show for UK fashion and textile manufacturers, a catwalk show staged in partnership with the best of Leicestershire manufacturing, a conference featuring an array of inspiring speakers from across the industry and an educational session offering information and resources for students and apprentices in the sector.

The trade show provided the perfect platform for UK textile, apparel and leather goods manufacturers to connect with buyers and designers looking to produce quality British made products – and the catwalk show raised awareness of the variety of clothing and accessories on offer.

Speakers at the conference included Emma Willis MBE, English shirt maker, Patrick Grant, award winning designer and Director at Norton & Sons of Savile Row, Caroline Rush CBE, Chief Executive of The British Fashion Council, Simon Colbeck, General Head of Innovation and Quality at Marks and Spencer, cult British Meanswear designer, Nigel Cabourn and Lorna Fitzsimons, Director of the Alliance Project and N Brown Textiles Growth Programme.

Kate Hills has worked tirelessly in her firm belief that manufacturing in the UK is thriving, cost-effective and sustainable. The success of this year’s ‘Meet the Manufacturer’ has consolidated its future as the only major sourcing event specifically for British manufacturers of clothing, textiles and leather goods. We look forward to supporting it for many years to come.

Show More

This year’s British Retail Consortium’s Omni-channel Retailing conference, featured a number of retail chiefs from across the industry, including recently promoted Steve Robinson, CEO of Achica, Andy Wolfe, CIO of Shop Direct, David Walmsley, Director of M&, Jon Wragg, Director of E-Commerce & Marketing at SuperGroup plc, Will Lockie, Programme Head Multichannel at Evans Cycles and Annabel Kilner, Country Manager of

Each talking about the focuses, pitfalls and priorities for the brands they represent there was one common theme throughout this Omni-channel conference and that was unreservedly ensuring that all platforms and all channels had the customer at its core. Flexibility, information, engagement, choice of delivery, free delivery, free returns, personalisation, exceptional customer service and innovation were paramount. Equally important were skills in data analytics, segmentation, social content, digital merchandising and interacting with consumers online and on phone. The winners are calculated but brave – crunch the data but test and go live at 80%. If you wait you could end up imitating.

Andy Wolfe was the only one on the podium who spoke about the war for digital talent and that data scientists and platform architects are driven by the challenges of the work rather than the brand. That’s absolutely true and competition with VC-backed technology start-ups is fierce – yet during the lunch and coffee breaks the conversations were buzzing with the burning issue of attracting and retaining talent (not to mention discussions with Emily Moffat, Marketing Director of Crabtree and Evelyn and Davinia Jash, Senior Director Business Development & Operations at GAP about the lack of female faces in the room)!

So considering this digitally focused approach from some of the biggest names in the retail market, where is your next CMO, Digital Director, Chief Customer Officer and Omni- channel Director coming from? The reality is there is an extremely limited pool of qualified candidates from within the retail community and whilst there is a new and upcoming generation being developed in the sector, retailers also have to look outside and appoint creatively. In this way, they will ensure commercial KPI’s are met and customers buy, are delighted and return – agile cultures enable multiple, coordinated retail channels.

At court & spark we are nurturing relationships with established leaders in this field but more importantly we are building a network with up-and-coming talent who have been learning from digital pioneers at, amazon, Ebay and ASOS to name a few. We would be delighted to hear about your digital journey and discuss what talent might help your business innovate and grow across all your retail channels. Please contact: Fiona Davidson at

Show More

Charles Tyrwhitt was established in 1986 by Nicholas Wheeler, founded on the belief that he could make a better shirt than anybody else.

Now a leading multi-channel, international menswear brand – we talk with Sue Willis, Head Office Practice Director at court & spark consulting who has, since the summer of 2012, worked in close partnership with Charles Tyrwhitt, placing eight Buying & Merchandising Senior Managers.

“The first assignment with Charles Tyrwhitt was for a Head of Merchandising. The business had grown consistently for 5 consecutive years and hadfurther international growth in its sight. From 21 stores and a mail order business it had become an award winning multi-channel international retailer with sales close to £130m.

“This rapid growth had created a need for a new approach to buying and merchandising and a need for experienced professionals who could establish new ways of working and prepare the business for the next stage of development.

“The placements I made were predominantly across the buying and merchandising side of the business and from one successful placement, I was asked to support the business on an exclusive basis to fulfil a number of roles in the wider team at Merchandise Manager, Senior Buyer and Merchandiser level as well as Catalogue Planning Manager and Branch Planning Manager.

“A strong relationship with the key leadership team allowed me to ensure that candidates I put forward fulfilled the company’s needs. I understood what the business was looking for, and by working closely with Chief Product Officer, Cathy Carrington Birch and the newly appointed Head of Merchandising, Rebecca Howat, I was able to understand in detail what was needed, from skillset and experience to fit within the business. This allowed me then to provide them with a very tight, shortlist of candidates qualified for each role.

“The challenge is always getting people with the right experience and the right fit but key with the Charles Tyrwhitt brand was finding people who could see past the single product retail business and instead identify with and relish how challenging and stimulating working in a business like Charles Tyrwhitt is at this time. With key international growth in the USA, Germany and Australia and the targeting prospects of other international markets too, candidates needed a skillset which could drive change and work at a rapid pace.”

Cathy Carrington Birch commented:

“With any hire the key is firstly and foremost finding the person that is going to fit into the business. Working with one recruiter not only reassured me, that at a time of great change within Charles Tyrwhitt, the candidates being presented to me would suit our needs to take the business forward, but my time was being utilised more efficiently.

“Though internet searches are now rife within recruitment, the success we have had working with court & spark consulting re-enforces to me the impact experienced recruitment professionals can have on a business. By utilising their network of contacts and taking the time to really understand the brief, court & spark has been successful in finding the best candidates to match our needs.”

Show More