Q&A with Glynn Davis

Alex By Alex

We recently caught up with freelance writer Glynn Davis, to find out how he got into journalism and get his thoughts on how technology is changing the retail sector. Glynn is a business writer specialising in the retail and food & drink sectors and has written for publications including the FT, Caterer & Hotelkeeper, Publican’s Morning Advertiser, Retail Week, Essential Retail, Retail Technology, Computer Weekly and Retail Bulletin. Glynn is also editor and founder of Retailinsider.com and Beerinsider.com.

How did you get into journalism? I started off working in the City, latterly as a fund manager, but decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. Then during my year out, I started writing about beer, pubs, gambling and horse racing as these were things I was interested in. I soon then decided that I wanted to do it for a living.

So I ended up getting a job and was trained by Reed Business Publishing. I started freelancing from the off, and then Retail Week got in contact and asked me to write about food and the City. Soon after I was given the technology beat as no one else understood it and I happened to have a degree in computer science. My interest in retail technology really started from that point onwards.

What are your current focuses? The majority of my time is currently spent on Retailinsider.com and our associated events. I actually still spend a third of my time writing about leisure and hospitality, but not many people in the retail space seem to know this. Outside of writing, I seem to spend rather a lot of my time working for the brewery I co-own.

How has the retail technology space changes over the years? When I started covering the space it was nearly always about Point of Sale implementations – X company rolling out Y solution in Z number of stores. Now in the world of cloud and APIs it is much more about what technology retailers are choosing and how it will transform their business. It is a big opportunity, as such we are seeing more people being employed in tech-related positions. The lines between business and tech are now blurring.

At NRF this year there was a lot of talk about how technology will help retailers reorganise their store operations. I think that technology will ultimately change the role of the store worker rather than outright replace them.

How useful do you find press trips? I used to have a role where I got invited to many press trips, but today I hardly get invited to any retail ones. At NRF I didn’t go on behalf of anybody, I just went on my own account writing for about six different publications.

It is an interesting dynamic, as freelancers shouldn’t get knocked off a press list, but invites still tend to be geared towards the publication rather than the individual journalist. The fact is, as a freelancer I could be attending an event for more then one publication whereas a staffer will only be writing for the one.

What is an ideal story for you? If it is a technology story I really do need to speak to the retailer. I appreciate this can be a challenge at times for organisations and PRs, but the story is really dependent on this. Me and my readers aren’t interested in the ‘nuts & bolts’ of the technology but rather its application.

What is the favourite story you have written? There are couple that spring to mind. Firstly, I did a big feature for Sunday Business around First Tuesday and the dotcom boom in the late 1990s. The second was a leisure piece I did for the FT in 2009 regarding the renaissance of London breweries – at the time there were three, whereas now there are more than 100 in London. Both stories were important to the markets I was covering.

Who would you most like to interview and why? I digress slightly, but I did enjoy speaking to Barry Hearn for Real Business, about the rise in popularity of snooker, boxing and poker, and his time being chairman of Leyton Orient. I also had the opportunity to speak to David Sullivan (the current co-owner of West Ham United).

I suppose Jeff Bezos would be the one I’d most like to interview currently as Amazon is rewriting technology in all sectors. It certainly wouldn’t take much to sell the story into publications.