Suzanne Harlow

Former CEO, Jack Wills


Suzanne joined Jack Wills in May 2018 as a Senior Advisor to BlueGem Capital partners and the CEO/Founder. She took over as CEO in August 2018 and led the business through to a sale one year later to Sports Direct International.

Prior to her time at Jack Wills, she served as PLC Board Director of Debenhams from Dec 2013 to Oct 2017 with responsibility for the global product , brand and sourcing proposition . She started at Debenhams in 1994 where she covered a wide variety of senior roles including GroupTrading Director of all product categories across Clothing and Accessories , Beauty and Gifting , Home and Restaurants both in the UK and internationally.

She served on the Advisory Board of the British Fashion Council and was involved in Graduate Fashion week . She was NED for Ermes Dept store group in Cyprus and is currently a member of the Retail Advisory Committee for the British Heart Foundation . She is also an Ambassador and Mentor for Retail Week’s Be Inspired campaign developing future female leaders .

1. Best piece of advice you’ve been given

I’d spent most of my career with one large retailer and when I left a few years ago, I wasn’t sure what the right next step would or should be. I know I’d probably stayed too long in the same place, so I was just looking forward o a change and my next ‘big job’. Someone said to me though that a career path didn’t need to be linear and to be open minded about doing something different and so when a short turn consultancy role came up in a much smaller business, I took it and then became CEO a few months later.

2. Worst piece of advice you’ve been given.

I think you have to take advice in the spirit it’s intended – There’s been advice that I’ve been given in the past that I might not have wanted to hear at the time, but I generally reflect on it afterwards.

3. What would you tell your younger self?

I’d say try new things and be curious, push yourself out of you comfort zone and take risks even if it seems scary at the time.

4. What excites you the most about the future of your industry?

The constant change and evolution isn’t going to go away, and whilst it’s challenging it will inevitably throw up new, interesting opportunities and that’s why I think new more than ever , you have to be open minded about your career path, stay involved and keep learning.

5. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

We live in a really fast paced industry, so I personally get my ‘inspiration’ from making time to go to the theatre, art galleries and cinema which is the benefit of living so close to London… There’s a constant stream of interesting things to see and get involved in if you make the time.

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