John Wilson, President, Staples Europe

    John Wilson's shake-up of Staples' European operations is starting to pay off on the bottom line as the unit returned to full-year profitability in 2013.

    The cost has been heavy in terms of headcount reductions with about 1,600 jobs – around 20% of the European workforce – being cut over a two-year period as functions are streamlined and Staples exits some unprofitable markets.

    The top line is still under pressure, but there was some encouraging news from the retail division in May as it reported flat same-store sales – the first time this figure has not been negative since 2008. The online channel has received a boost with the roll-out of the Quill platform in six European markets accounting for 80% of the region’s online sales.

    Another key initiative has been the creation of a pan-European product assortment and progress with this has led to higher gross margins.