From tumultuous turnarounds to political hotshots, here are five of the headline speakers at Retail Week Live you can’t afford to miss.
There’s less than three months to go until the biggest event in the UK retail calendar, Retail Week Live. The gathering brings the who’s who of the retail industry together to debate the future of the sector.
The line-up for 2016 is brimming with chief executives from some of the biggest retailers in the world who will share their stories, views and predictions. Here are just five session highlights from the two days.
1. Dave Lewis, chief executive, Tesco
Former Unilever executive Lewis became the most high-profile person in retail when he was hired to lead the biggest business turnaround of the decade at Tesco.
The grocer was in crisis. Sales were plummeting, its relationship with suppliers, investors, employees and customers was ailing and it had no strategic direction. The situation went from bad to worse when it was discovered less than a month into Lewis’ reign that Tesco had previously overstated its profits by £263m.
Lewis will highlight the importance of creating the right business culture to meet the ever-changing demands of today’s consumer
Lewis faces a Herculean task to rebuild the UK’s largest grocer and restore a sense of purpose at Tesco. He has set about reshaping his management team, rebuilding relationships with suppliers and refocusing on its core business.
The Tesco chief will share his story at Retail Week Live and highlight the importance of creating the right business culture to meet the ever-changing demands of today’s consumer. Lewis will discuss the pivotal importance of trust in a brand and what this means, not only for Tesco, but the entire retail industry.
2. Craig Kreeger, chief executive, Virgin Atlantic
Former American Airlines executive Craig Kreeger became captain of the Virgin Atlantic business in 2013 at a time when performance had nosedived.
Despite losses standing at £80.2m in the year to February 2012, Kreeger boldly promised to return Virgin Atlantic to profit in two years. He delivered on this promise, landing a £14.4m pre-tax profit in 2014.
That is no mean feat. The aviation industry faces similar challenges to retail. Digital has transformed the industry. It has changed how consumers interact with brands and intensified price competition. Meanwhile, the desire for excellent customer service grows ever stronger as even budget players such as Ryanair moved to improve its service.
For Kreeger, the Virgin Atlantic turnaround was not just about restoring the financial performance, it was just as important to preserve what he calls the “Virgin magic”. The company prides itself on its people, its customer experience and its sense of fun and that is why customers choose to fly with the carrier.
At Retail Week Live, Kreeger will reveal how he returned the business to growth while protecting its ethos and will discuss how businesses can think differently and challenge in competitive industries while staying true to their brand.
3. Ray Kelvin, founder and chief executive, Ted Baker
Ted Baker has been one of retail’s big success stories and enigmatic founder Ray Kelvin is the driving force behind it.
Despite its relative maturity, Ted Baker is growing at the rate of knots. Pre-tax profits jumped 23.7% to £49.5m in its most recent financial year to January 31. The growth shows no sign of abating as Ted Baker’s increasingly international fan base expands.
The brand, which now has more than 400 stores worldwide, hinges upon Kelvin’s fictitious alter-ego Ted Baker and his quirky, eccentric British style.
Kelvin refers to Ted as “his boss” and everything is done with him in mind. Product, communications and quirky, individually-themed stores have a unique Ted Baker stamp and this brand integrity keeps shoppers coming back.
In a fireside chat with Retail Week editor-in-chief Chris Brook-Carter, Kelvin reveals the secret of his success and his vision for Ted Baker in the future.
He may allow his fictional companion Ted to front the brand, however Kelvin is no shrinking violet. The larger-than life retail leader, who famously never shows his face in public, frequently breaks into song and makes people who are late to meetings do press-ups. Best not be late for his Retail Week Live session.
4. Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Sajid Javid took the Business Secretary role following the Conservatives’ election victory in May. In his Retail Week Live keynote, Javid will share how the Government intends to create an environment in which retail can thrive.
Low levels of inflation, real wage growth and flat interest rates have boosted disposable incomes but the sector still needs a helping hand from the government.
Javid will share how the Government intends to create an environment in which retail can thrive
The burden of planning red tape continues to hamper development and retailers are still hoping for reform of what many believe is an outdated business rates system.
Meanwhile, the industry anxiously awaits the outcome of the EU referendum and many retailers with European operations view the possibility of an exit with alarm.
Following Javid’s speech, Ann Summers chief executive Jacqueline Gold is primed to ask the burning questions that retailers want answered in what is sure to be a lively session.
5. Amee Chande, managing director, UK, Alibaba Group
When it comes to global ecommerce there is one company everyone has their eye on: Alibaba. The Chinese powerhouse, which launched the world’s largest IPO in 2014, raising $25bn, notched up annual sales of $12.3bn in its last financial year, up 45%, and may soon overtake Amazon to become the world’s largest etailer.
It dominates retail in China, accounting for 80% of all ecommerce sales, and has become a vital partner for western retailers wanting to crack the Orient. Asos, M&S, Burberry and Sainsburys sell through its platform.
Former Tesco and Walmart executive Chandee’s appointment as Alibaba’s first UK managing director in September signals its intention to increase UK-based sales on its platform.
China now has the largest retail economy in the world and its consumers are growing increasingly wealthy. However, it is a notoriously difficult market to crack. Tesco, Best Buy and M&S are just three of the western giants who have tried and failed.
At Retail Week Live, Chandee will shed light on the Chinese consumer and advise retailers how they can make the most out of the golden opportunity that China presents.