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HOT 100 RETAIL TITANS: Charles Burns, Burns


Charles Burns is an advocate of John Timpson’s management philosophy. The founder of Timpsons, the national chain of shoe repair and key cutting outlets, says in his respected book Upside Down Management, that customers come first, then sales assistants, and only then do you worry about other members of your ecosystem. His advice is summarised as: “It is far easier to be sat on top of a cart being pushed uphill by your team, than pushing a cart uphill with your entire team sat on top of it.”

The family business’ head of branded jewellery and watches has driven (or is it ridden?) this philosophy across his business, leading to increased sales, motivation and significant gains in customer retention and satisfaction.

The current focus at Burns is on a dramatic increase in online sales, which Charles says are on track to rocket over the next two years. “I brought together a team of experts to drive my online business forward. The team are all self- starters who are incredibly passionate with a purpose to fulfil my vision of a 10x increase in online revenue to over £1.5m by 2017,” he reveals. That will contribute to total revenue of £12.5 million from 16 stores, he predicts.


Charles is happy to achieve success through others, but that doesn’t mean he lacks his own competitive streak, which he unleashes on the golf course at his local country club in Knutsford. “I love competition,” he states with a slightly obsessive edge.

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