17 Leaders to Watch in 2017
Continued (part 3 of 6)
Print17 Leaders to Watch in 2017
By Mike Troy
 Retail Leader's annual list of individuals poised to have an outsized influence on the retail and consumer goods universe in 2017. 

The next-gen disruptor

Anil Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO, Shoptalk
More than 5,000 people are expected to attend an event Aggarwal created that didn't exist until a year ago.

This March the Aria hotel in Las Vegas will be buzzing with activity, as an estimated 5,000 people gather for Shoptalk, an event Aggarwal helped create and masterfully positioned as the "nextgen commerce event." The inaugural event was held in May 2016, and despite what seemed like an ambitious first-year forecast for 2,000 attendees, the final tally was roughly 3,100. Credit a content-driven strategy, considerable C-level involvement and plenty of promotional bluster for the high level of interest. This year promises more of the same as Shoptalk successfully established itself as a uniquely positioned event in an otherwise crowded landscape that posed the question of whether there was really an unmet need in the market for a new event.

Aggarwal and Shoptalk co-founder Jonathon Weiner knew there was, and had heard similar sentiments in 2011 when they launched a financial technology event called Money20/20 that also needed to differentiate itself from an abundance of other fin-tech events. The combination of content and senior-level executive involvement worked well, and after four years, Money20/20 had become a must-attend event, attracting more than 10,000 attendees in the U.S. and spawning international versions in Europe and Asia.

Shoptalk appears to be on a similar trajectory, with an international version already planned for fall 2017 in Copenhagen with an attendee forecast of 2,000.

Whether in Europe or the U.S., Shoptalk's format is focused on covering the evolution of how consumers discover, shop and buy. It is structured to bring together a diverse collection of leaders from established retailers and brands, disruptive startups, leading tech and internet companies, venture capital investors and pretty much anyone seeking to understand where commerce is headed.

The Master Strategist

Chris Donnelly, senior managing director, retail, Accenture
Accenture adds value with acquisition of Kurt Salmon.

Accenture was already a global powerhouse in the professional services world, with roughly 380,000 employees worldwide serving diverse client needs in more than 120 countries. The broad range of services and solutions Accenture offers in the areas of strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations helped the company generate annual revenues of nearly $33 billion. That figure will grow with last year's acquisition of the well-respected Kurt Salmon firm.

Although small relative to Accenture—Kurt Salmon has 260 employees—the deal brings to the Accenture Strategy division Kurt Salmon's established leadership in operational strategy consulting, including logistics and supply chain, merchandising and product development, corporate strategy, due diligence and omnichannel retail strategy.

Ensuring the smooth integration of Kurt Salmon into Accenture and the delivery of services to clients is Chris Donnelly, senior managing director for retail with Accenture Strategy. In that capacity and as a member of Accenture's Global Leadership Council, Donnelly works with leading global retailers to address the critical issues facing their businesses, from reshaping strategy to rethinking operating models.

For his part, Donnelly has more than 23 years of retail experience with deep skills in the planning, design, and implementation of transformation projects with a particular focus on merchandising, benefits realization and shareholder value creation. Prior to his current role, Donnelly was the global industry managing director for retail and managing director for Accenture United Kingdom and Ireland Retail.

For his part, Donnelly has more than 23 years of retail experience with deep skills in the planning, design, and implementation of transformation projects and a particular focus on merchandising, benefits realization and shareholder value creation. Prior to his current role, Donnelly was the global industry managing director for retail and managing director for Accenture United Kingdom and Ireland Retail.

Global Health Care Provider

Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Challenge of successful integration of Rite Aid acquisition looms for Gourlay.

Alex Gourlay was relatively unknown on the U.S. retail scene until a few years ago. That all changed when Walgreens and Alliance Boots combined to become Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) in December 2014, creating what the company called "the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise."

Now the health care power player is looking to integrate several thousand recently acquired Rite Aid stores into an already sizable 8,175-store Retail Pharmacy USA division that generated $83.8 billion of WBA's global sales of $117.3 billion in the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2016. The acquisition of Rite Aid, which operates about 4,500 stores with annual sales of $26.5 billion, will easily push sales of WBA's U.S. retail division above the $100 billion mark, even if the Federal Trade Commission requires the company to divest upwards of 1,000 stores to grant antitrust clearance. The massive integration, and the increased leverage it gives the company in the health care ecosystem, will occur on Gourley's watch.

Over time, Gourley's responsibilities are expected to expand to the entire WBA enterprise. At 56 and head of WBA's largest division, he is seen as the logical successor to CEO Stefano Pessina, who at 75 would appear to be nearing retirement. Gourley's longtime colleague and co-COO, Ornella Barra, 62, leads WBA's two other divisions, the $22.6 billion pharmaceutical wholesale division and the $13.3 billion retail pharmacy international division with nearly 4,700 stores in the United Kingdom, Thailand, Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands, Mexico and Chile.

Gourley and Barra were named co-COOs in June 2016, but his leadership at Walgreens began shortly after a June 2012 deal that involved Walgreens acquiring a 45 percent interest in Alliance Boots. Gourley had served as chief executive of the health and beauty division at Alliance Boots since January 2009, but in October 2013 he was named president of customer experience and daily living at Walgreens. When Walgreens acquired the remainder of Alliance Boots in December 2014, Gourley was promoted to president.