Two US giants stole the show at this year’s World Retail Congress

This year’s World Retail Congress in Berlin, organised by my distinguished predecessor Ian McGarrigle, has been the biggest yet, and while it hasn’t finished, I’ve already learnt some really interesting stuff. The dominant theme by miles has been multichannel - how retailers are going to have to evolve as businesses in response to it and how mobile and social networking are wreaking profound change on established retail business models the world over.

Here’s an example. Australian retailers are used to being a season behind their Northern Hemisphere counterparts in terms of trends. But the availability of trend knowledge via the web means Aussie shoppers demand those trends now, so their retailers are having to react by translating Winter trends for Summer ranges, and vice versa.

The second most dominant theme has been emerging markets - how the explosion of consumerism in China is going to change both retailing there and affect the supply chain globally, and the potential of countries like Brazil.

My favourite two presentations were both by American retail giants - Mike Gould of Bloomingdales and Gordon Segal of Crate & Barrel. Both are real merchants, genuinely passionate about what they do and who put tremendous value on the commitment and dedication of their staff. Their humility was something to behold - Gould said the only thing you could get in Bloomingdales legendary 59th Street New York flagship that you couldn’t get elsewhere within 10 blocks was its people.