Monthly Archives: March 2014

It’s a mind fxxx!

It’s a bit of a mind fxxx!

After the success of day 1 at Retail Week Live one could have been forgiven for wondering if day 2 would live up to all the hype and expectation; we weren’t to be disappointed. If nothing else, the annual retail get together has become a cornucopia of all that is both interesting and stimulating in the industry. And Retail Week must be congratulated on once again assembling an agenda and line-up of speakers with which to whet the appetite. From our favourite bricks and mortar brand to more eclectic new kids on the block, the annual gathering in W2 never fails to deliver an inspiring mix of retail talent.

And as the very best example of this, Jigsaw CEO Peter Ruis shared with Sian Williams the journey he is embarking on in order to return the Jigsaw brand to its former glories. One of the ways in which he intends to achieve this is both inspired and inspiring and reflects the current innovative thinking we should embrace, characterised by some of our most well known brands. In the future, visitors to the West End and Mayfair in particular will, if Peter’s vision comes to fruition, have a new meeting place at which to relax, have a coffee or a drink, listen to live music, read the news……just spend time. Yes, this is the concept for the new Jigsaw Emporium. Such a vision for retail can only be applauded.

And in years to come perhaps Retail Week Live 2014 will be seen as a seminal moment in time in the retail industry; the overriding feeling I came away with from a 48 hour total immersion was that life is never going to be quite the same again. Why? For years we have listened to so much about the growth of multi-channel, which then became omni-channel, without really recognising the phenomenon we were describing and how it related to the consumer. The last 48 hours have put all that in context and a new perspective has arisen. One which not only describes the retailers’ challenge but most importantly how the consumer is now always on, connected, savvy and ready and willing to become immersed in a (retail) brand, but only on their own terms. This is huge and significant and marks a seismic change which many on the High Street hardly recognise let alone are willing and able to embrace.

But fear not, help is at hand. As always a guiding and steady hand on the tiller, John Lewis took centre stage on day 2 and Andy Street delivered the sort of keynote which sadly appeared to be beyond the reach of Philip Clarke. On the one hand the Partnership maybe perceived to be a morass of democracy, unable to decide which way is up, but on the other (a perennial dichotomy) a singularly focused, customer centric business which continually demonstrates the uncanny ability to buck the economic trend. Add to that the fact that in Andy Street’s words, John Lewis are now targeting younger, less affluent consumers can only be seen as a real threat to their competitors. We all felt the love for this most British of brands.

So what did 48 hours of Retail Week, treating us to something ‘reassuringly unpredictable’ condense down to? This materialised as perhaps the most inspiring, energising session of the entire conference and one which all retailers would do well to pay very close attention to. Who had even considered 10 year old ‘Generation I’ as being relevant to the conference before we heard from Chris Sanderson, chief #trendmeister! All I can hope for is that the likes of Andy Street, Philip Clarke, Theo Paphitis and all the other retail leaders gathered at W2 this year, were privy to the enlightenment which this closing session gave us. You think you know your customer? Think again. For 47 hours we heard all about multi-channel, omni-channel, mobile, customer experience, the connected customer etc etc. Then all this was  turned on its head and we were suddenly introduced to the 10 year old Generation I. They don’t think like we do, they have no fear, technology is a part of their lives – just like breathing – they expect their actions and opinions to influence their experiences.  The world to them is constantly changing and evolving and they expect to be able to interact and engage with it on that basis. And guess what? They are coming to a store near you. Soon.

It might seem like a mind fxxx but whether we like it or not, the future of retail is experiential and immersive; are you ready for it?  

 

 

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Half-wits in Head Office

 

Half-wits in Head Office

Reassuringly unpredictable; that was what Retail Week Live promised us…..and 48 hours which would change the way we think. Well, that’s a bold statement but history tells us that Retail Week usually delivers and day 1 of the 2014 conference was no different. We had the goliath of the High Street Tesco, pledging to do better, Government promising to review the business rates system….or did they? Conference star turn failing to show – but we all sympathised and understood – and Dragons Den meets Declan nicely rounded off the day!

If we weren’t clear on Tesco’s pedigree and plans for future domination before the conference, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke soon saw to that. Rather than the retail thought leadership and, whisper it, statesmanship we’d perhaps hoped for, the audience was witness to a keynote speech which was low in retail wisdom and high in Tesco branding. But one thing struck a chord; Tesco are going to listen to their customers, refresh their offer and put the customer at the heart of everything they do. Unfortunately, some of their competitors have already done this, so it’s catchup. Time will tell if one of our great retailers can win back our support.

Retail Week were then true to their promise of being “reassuringly unpredictable” as next up was the antithesis of Philip Clarke, Business Secretary Vince Cable. James Hacker lives on as we were left wondering if we’d entered a parallel universe and been transported back to this time last year. The 2 were interchangeable; it’s a skill but not as we know it Jim.

My personal journey following the morning plenary sessions took me in 2 different directions. First a fascinating insight into the relevance and importance of the supply chain in the new age retail environment in which we now find ourselves. Where supply chain and logistics are the foremost custodians of customer service in a multi-channel / omni-channel world.  And at this point I should declare my personal view on this topic. It is only baby boomer retailers who persist in referring to multi-channel and omni-channel. Millennials don’t use this terminology; consumers certainly don’t consider their multi-channel or omni-channel experience! Seems strange that as an industry sector, retail should still cling to these labels as if life depended on it. Always on, brand immersion seems to me to capture the brand engagement experience that consumers, especially the aforementioned millennials, are seeking. And as a theme from day 1 that, forgive the analogy, was omni-present.

And as if to provide an antidote to that, Rapha and Sainsbury’s then offered their thoughts on the customer experience and how they see their journey as it relates to the customer. At once enticing and exciting and at the same time re-assuring and (in Sainsbury’s case) somewhat patriarchal.

The afternoon was something of a curates egg; the CEO leadership panel promised much and didn’t fail to deliver even without our erstwhile mutual CEO. And this was in no small part down to Seb James (clearly having a ball) and Mark Newton-Jones, fresh from sailing forays and back to try to turn around another ship in distress, Mothercare. Anthony Thompson from Fat Face hadn’t read the same script but was no less informative and entertaining. A real insight into a day in the life of…….

And to round off the 1st day a sharp dragon in every sense of the word. Theo Paphitis exudes charisma and did not disappoint. Irreverent, entertaining and forthright but ultimately some serious messages for the retail industry, coming as the interview did after an enlightening panel discussion which explored how young people view the retail industry.

Half-wits in Head Office – we deserved more of Theo!