An interview with Cally Russell: founder and CEO of Mallzee


The fashion retail industry is under pressure as competition continues to increase, shopping behaviours evolve and retailers are squeezed by ever-increasing economic and fiscal pressures. One man who is helping retailers navigate their way through these tough trading conditions is Cally Russell, whose business Mallzee Insights offers a pre-release product testing solution enabling retailers to test product with consumers prior to bringing them to market ensuring they optimise the return on every line and ultimately improving gross margins by 2-6%.


We were lucky enough to catch up with Cally Russell, founder and CEO of Mallzee Insights to find out more.



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Cally Russell can you tell us a bit more about the background to Mallzee Insights – where did the idea come from?


Absolutely, way back in 2013 I was frustrated at how difficult it was to find and buy fashion on my mobile so I set up a shopping marketplace app called Mallzee bringing together hundreds of high street retailers to make it easy for shoppers to find, compare and buy from their mobiles. It’s now the UK’s leading non-retailer shopping app and has been downloaded over 1.5 million times. Users swipe through items liking and disliking them – using a fun Tinder style interface.


Very quickly I realised that the customer opinion data being generated gave a powerful insight into customer intent and product success therefore in 2017 we set up our retail insights and data analytics arm of the business – Mallzee Insights to help retailers improve their product offering decision making by adding customer opinion.


 Tell us more about Mallzee Insights and how it helps retailers?


Mallzee Insights enables retailers to add real time, authentic customer product opinion at all stages of the product development and buying process. We offer a testing solution called Product Future which allows partner retailers to showcase their pre-release products on the Mallzee app to a specifically selected customer grouping and to quickly gather customer opinions highlighting which products are likely to be best sellers and which should be avoided. This customer insight is benchmarked against other products on the market thus giving context which helps improve product selection and also stock ordering and merchandising.


Lots of companies offer different forms of customer insights – what makes Mallzee Insights unique?


Mallzee Insights is unique as we test pre-release in the Mallzee shopping app which means we don’t need access to retailer’s own customer database and can accurately reach specific customer groupings directly. Most testing solutions are based on a focus group model which involves only a limited number of participants and is an obvious feedback experience whereas by testing with our engaged Mallzee users – we can achieve scale very quickly and the opinion is gathered in an authentic shopping environment. To date we have gathered over 531 million customer opinions across over 150 high street and designer brands. In summary, I’d say we are unique because of the authentic way we capture the opinions and the speed and scale at which we can do so – we gather hundreds of opinions on a single product within days.


What type of retailers do you work with, is it only large ones?


No not at all we work with retailers of all sizes, in fact, some are very small start-ups who have identified the success that retailers such as Zara and Boohoo are having as a result of their data-driven product processes and want to emulate these without having to invest upfront in costly infrastructures. There is no technical integration required to test the product on Mallzee Insights we simply need product imagery (or CADs) and the product details including proposed price – we then do the rest and there is no technical integration or lengthy processes.


We work with a huge variety of retailers including some of the biggest players in the industry.



There have been a number of high profile retail collapses in the UK over the last year or so, what do you think has been to blame and how could they have been avoided?


The retail industry is undoubtedly facing some tough conditions with rising costs, increasing competition and, here in the UK, reduced consumer confidence and spending, but I personally think one of the biggest problems has been that many retailers have lost touch with who their customer really is and this mismatch has led to more and more product being left on the racks. For example, discounting levels have been sitting at above 50% as retailers price cut to try to shift overstock – but this is only a short term fix, longer-term they need to understand what customers their product appeals to or what product to make for their customer!


Do you think of Mallzee Insights as a fashion company or a technology company?


In this day and age, I think every company has to be part technology company if they are to capitalise on opportunities and continue to compete with the younger tech-savvy offerings. Data can help shape decision making and works best when used not in isolation but as an add on to retailers’ experienced buying and development teams.


To discover more about Mallzee Insights visit


(Mr) Cally Russell is the CEO and founder of Mallzee Insights – the UK’s most comprehensive retail insights business, utilising the largest dataset of customer product opinion to help improve fashion retail today. He is an alumni of the Forbes 30 under 30 for retail and commerce Europe and is now a regular contributor to Forbes. Based between Edinburgh and London, Cally is on a mission to improve the retail industry via data.



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