Darren Williams is Founder and Managing Director of DW Exec Consulting Limited, which he started in January 2018. He is also a Board Director at the exciting Italian Wine business, Vini Italiani.
Darren began his career at Radio Rentals, part of the Thorn UK group, and once part of a one thousand strong store business. Here he ‘learnt his trade’ and by the age of 19 had become the youngest Store Manager in the company, going on to win several accolades during his 5 years with the business.
A move into fashion retail, where Darren was Store Manager at both the Best Trading and London Jean Company brands, and where he spent 3 exciting years and made the move to make London his home. In 1998, Darren joined the new mobile phone network Orange, and was part of the original team that started off the retail operation. He describes this part of his career as one of the happiest times of his life – and it was here he earned his promotion to a field role for the first time, recognised as Area Manager of the year just 1 year later. Orange had almost 400 stores by the time Darren left in 2003, and he had played an instrumental part in that growth, by this time becoming known at work as ‘DW’.
Into Senior Roles
It was at this stage DW moved into Costa coffee as a Regional Manager, giving him an opportunity to extend his retail experience into food and beverage. He was part of a new team that turned the business from EBIT flat to 10M in one year. Following this, an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the Unwins off-licence chain 2.5 years later. This was a difficult period, and gave DW the exposure to private equity, venture capitalists, banks and business re-structuring.
DW moved on to lead the Argos business in London, and enjoyed significant success in bringing 4 previous London districts under one umbrella, a move that many said could not be done. It was due to his strength of leadership, and being surrounded by a fabulous group of peers and team that ultimately made this possible. Commercial performance and customer metrics both saw significant shift during his time at the helm.
He was then headhunted by Hotel Chocolat and led the retail division of the luxury chocolate business through a period of sustained and exceptional growth, from 27 to 85 stores and 4 countries and year on year double digit growth. He was known for his leadership, his unrivalled understanding of the customer, and his belief that the business simply had to be better than all the rest; it was never enough to have a fabulous brand and product, it always had to be so much more. There was industry recognition for its ‘happiness’ program as well as ‘Speciality Retailer of the year’ at the Retail week awards in 2012.
In more recent years, DW was the Commercial Director at Paul UK, and then moved onto work with Unilever in bringing the T2 brand to the Northern Hemisphere, where in 2.5 years as Country Director the business achieved recognition breakthrough, a UK/USA estate of almost 30 stores, and an industry that recognised T2’s store experience as a leader in its field, again demonstrated by a further Retail week award.
DW is courageous, outspoken, demonstrates integrity, and cares about people. He intrinsically understands retail, the customer, and is fiercely passionate about the industry. He was a Samaritan for 7 years, reaching the office of Deputy Director, has been involved with the Retail Trust for 6 years, 2 as Chairman of the committee, and is embarking on new Ambassadorial roles with Stonewall and Target Ovarian cancer.