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River Island HRD launches personal shopping experience

River Island's HR director Karen Beaven is urging other HR professionals to innovate outside their remit and add to the bottom line.

Beaven has stepped out of her day job to launch a personal styling experience at the retailer’s flagship branches.

She told HR magazine her original concept was to create an in-store customer experience that “merged the best bits of an independent stylist experience with the best bits of personal shopping”.

The River Island Style Studio has just launched in the chain’s flagship shops in London and Birmingham. It is a complimentary service offered to all shoppers and staffed by personal stylists.

Beaven said that while getting CEO backing for HR-led projects that sit outside HR – such as this one – might not be easy, she believes it is possible as long as you have a “robust business case”.

She said she had partnered with stakeholders in the retail divisions to gain more consumer insight. She also worked closely with members of the finance team to get her idea off the ground by building a strong commercial case.

“We put together a P&L document to show the predicted sales and expenditures, which I believe enabled the CEO to back the project,” she explained. “I genuinely felt passionate about the idea and knew it would work. Then working through the numbers made me even more determined and I could see we could add real value to the bottom line”.

Despite River Island being a large company Beaven said it still fosters an “entrepreneurial spirit” that encouraged her to pursue her idea and turn it into reality. She believes this stems from River Island being a family-owned business and is a trait shared by the CEO, chairman and founder.

Beaven explained she wants to encourage more HR directors to think beyond the function and consider leading other projects, rather than “exclude” themselves from innovation. She called on her HR director peers to “have the confidence to use your full skillset”.

“I don’t think we always give ourselves credit for the wider skillset we have,” she said. “There’s no reason why we can’t use that skillset. Know you can have an impact in other areas.”

She added: “It’s about knowing that you can contribute to the business as a commercial leader beyond the remit of your job description. If you have a good idea and can see a commercial opportunity, then have the confidence that you could be the person to take it forward.”