Oak Furniture Land has appointed Ruth Harrison-Wood as chief marketing officer to spearhead the company’s ambitious growth plans, which include rapid expansion across the UK and into the US.

Ruth joins the UK’s largest retailer of hardwood furniture as it targets opening 10 new stores across the UK before the end of 2017. Oak Furniture Land already has almost 100 stores in the UK and opens stores at a rate of one a month on average – a strategy which remains in place for 2018. Its expansion into the US market is already underway, with an ecommerce website for the company set up and plans in place to open stores in the next 12 to 18 months.

Ruth's immediate priority is to help prepare the business for one of the biggest events in the retail calendar. She says: “To start with, I’ll be getting us in great shape for the January sales. I’ll also be analysing our audience segmentation and focusing on really understanding our customers. I’m looking forward to the challenge of answering the question; what does the customer need us to do to furnish their homes with more of our products? What is it that they really want?

“We’re already looking into perhaps creating a footprint store within one of our new stores, to see how we can develop the best possible shopping journey. It is well known the majority of retail purchases are influenced by women – and it is this sort of information and data that we will be looking to use more intelligently to ensure that our products and services are relevant for today’s customer, both now and in the future.”

The new chief marketing officer departs from National Express where she was worldwide group customer and marketing director. She brings more than 20 years’ experience leading campaigns, strategic marketing, commercial ventures and business development initiatives in pharmaceutical, travel, transport sectors and home improvement/retail.

“Retail was where I initially cut my teeth,” continues Ruth, “and I have a personal interest in interior design, so the opportunity to return to this fast-paced industry really appealed to me. The ambition of the company and ethics of the founder, Jason Bannister, to be a people-led business fit with my own values and beliefs. We want to continue with that focus. That is how Oak Furniture Land has got this far, and it will be key to its ongoing expansion going forward.”

Terry King, chief operating officer of Oak Furniture Land, says: “The role of chief marketing officer spans new product development, merchandising and marketing, and it is therefore integral to customer experience and to the future success of our business. Ruth has a wealth of experience and in-store customer journey knowledge, so this appointment will move us far closer to the Oak Furniture Land customer and their needs during what is set to be a rapid period of growth for the company.”